2 Atlanta men used dark web to steal more than 75 identities

Durrell Tyler and DeShawn Johnson were each sentenced to multiple years in prison and ordered to pay restitution in the combined amount of more than $130,000.

Credit: File photo

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Durrell Tyler and DeShawn Johnson were each sentenced to multiple years in prison and ordered to pay restitution in the combined amount of more than $130,000.

Credit: File photo

Two Atlanta men convicted of stealing the identities of more than 75 elderly people after purchasing their information on the dark web have each been sentenced to federal prison time, officials said.

Durrell Tyler, 29, and DeShawn Johnson, 30, each pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of access device fraud and aggravated identity, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Kurt Erskine said Thursday in a news release.

“Deplorable felons who purposely prey on elderly victims are among the worst criminals there are,” U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Steven R. Baisel said. “We will work tirelessly to pull them from their hiding places.”

According to Erskine, Tyler and Johnson used the dark web to purchase the personal identifying information of dozens of victims, then used the information to open credit accounts. Once they had access to credit in their victims’ names, they would forward phone lines, email addresses and mail to newly created accounts that they controlled. With the personal information of their victims and in control of all communication with their creditors, Tyler and Johnson were able to successfully impersonate their victims and stop the victims from learning about the fraud.

Law enforcement officers began to investigate Tyler after he tried to forward the phone number of an elderly couple in Georgia who had been murdered, Erskine said. The suspicious activity led investigators to take out search warrants for multiple homes in the Atlanta area used by Tyler and Johnson as they executed their fraud scheme. At the homes, investigators found mail, driver’s licenses and phones bearing the personal information of fraud victims.

Together, Tyler and Johnson were held accountable for more than $130,000 in losses suffered by the more than 75 victims, Erskine said. Many of the victims were elderly men and women who had been targeted by fraudsters before.

Tyler pleaded guilty in May and was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison. He was also ordered to pay more than $108,000 in restitution.

Johnson pleaded guilty in September and was sentenced to three years and six months in prison, in addition to being ordered to pay more than $66,000 in restitution. Both men were also sentenced to three years of supervised release following their incarceration.

“Criminals using dark net markets to steal identities wreak havoc on the lives of individuals and compromise the financial security of victims,” Erskine said. “While law enforcement is focused on investigating and prosecuting these individuals, citizens are reminded to be vigilant with their personal identifiable information.”

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