Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster on Tuesday called a Jackson County identity theft case the largest ever prosecuted by the state and said 44 victims have been identified.
The case against former Independence car dealer Terry Lee Morrow Jr., 25, had expanded significantly in the last week, since prosecutors filed their initial case involving eight victims, Koster said.
The amount of fraudulent loans has more than doubled to $1,036,522, and Morrow’s alleged take has gone from about $170,000 to $470,000 in cash, Koster said.
“The scope of this identity theft scam was enormous and could even grow,” Koster said.
Koster said he expected more charges against Morrow to be filed soon.
Morrow allegedly used personal information he obtained from former and prospective customers at his car lot to create fraudulent car loans.
He first operated Edge Auto Sales in the 3500 block of Southwest U.S. 40 in Blue Springs but later moved it to 211 E. U.S. 24 in Independence, court records said.
Between October 2011 and April 2012, Morrow generated illegal car loans by using personal information from former customers in the dealership’s files, court records alleged.
Using his customer’s names, birthdates and Social Security numbers, Morrow fabricated addresses and other details, according to the charges.
With the paperwork complete, Morrow then allegedly sold the loans to four automotive finance companies, which then tried to collect, Koster said. But because Morrow had used fake addresses, the finance companies had trouble finding the victims, who were unaware that he had signed them up for the loans.
The attorney general’s office has negotiated with the finance companies to remove the loans from the victims’ credit reports. Koster said he knew of no financial hardship suffered by the victims.
The scam came to light when a woman spotted a bogus loan on her credit report and reported it to the attorney general’s office, which opened an investigation.
“This case brings up the importance of regularly checking your credit report,” Koster said.
He urged anyone who did business with Edge Motors, or filled out financing information on the company’s website, to call his office at 800-392-8222.
Morrow, who court records said now lives in Streamwood, Ill., is incarcerated in DeKalb County, Ill., on similar identity theft charges there, Illinois authorities said. Koster said his office is seeking Morrow’s extradition to Missouri.
In addition to Edge Auto, Morrow also purportedly fabricated an entire auto dealership using information from one of his customers and faked even more loans. Authorities declined to provide the name of that dealership, pending more investigation.
After moving to Illinois, Morrow allegedly started another dealership, Silver Star Motors, reusing identities of his Jackson County victims. Illinois authorities, tipped off by another consumer, arrested Morrow as he was preparing to flee, Koster said.