- Amanda C. Coyne The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A pair of Fulton County siblings are suing the city of Lawrenceville and a Lawrenceville Police Department detective, claiming they were charged with credit card fraud while the actual culprits went on a $42,000 spending spree across at least 9 counties.
Sandra Green and Jerome Green claim they were charged with making fraudulent purchases in Sandra Green’s name with “no arguable probable cause.” They are suing Lawrenceville for unlawful seizure, malicious prosecution and municipal liabilities, and Det. John W. Anderson for malicious prosecution, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.
Sandra Green, then a Georgia Military College student living in Palmetto, left her purse at a Union City Wal-Mart in November 2011. The bag was stolen, along with her state ID card, checkbook, Social Security card, debit card and other sensitive documents, all of which were inside, according the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
By December, Sandra Green’s information had been used in fraudulent purchases at a liquor store, Toys R Us, HHGregg and Stein Mart. The thieves also rented a U-Haul with Sandra Green’s information and did not return it, the lawsuit said.
In the following months, the thieves used Sandra Green’s debit card and personal information to buy at least $42,000 in motorcycles, four-wheelers, home appliances and landscaping equipment, all hauled away in the stolen truck.
Sandra Green became inundated with calls from creditors and debt collectors and filed multiple police reports about her stolen purse and the fraudulent purchases in her name, the suit said.
The pair that would eventually plead guilty to fraud charges in multiple Georgia counties, Ashley Hughley and Marcus Ferguson, continued racking up bills, with some purchases more than $18,000, while Sandra Green and Jerome Green were being prosecuted in Lawrenceville.
Anderson began investigating the fraudulent purchases in April 2012 after Hughley and Ferguson used Sandra Green’s information at two Lawrenceville stores, the lawsuit said.
The suit claims Anderson only had the fraudulent sales and Sandra Green’s name to go on and had no experience investigating credit card fraud; the Lawrenceville Police Department was not named as a defendant in the suit but said it does not comment on pending litigation.
The Lawrenceville suspects were described as a 5-foot-8-inch woman between 35 and 40 years old with a short afro and a 6-foot man between 30 and 45 years old. Sandra Green was 23 at the time, standing at 5 feet, 3 inches with long, straight hair, according to the lawsuit. Her brother, Jerome, was 26. The lawsuit does not specify his height.
Weeks later, in early May, Anderson allegedly included photos of Sandra Green and Jerome Green in a lineup presented to the owner of one of the defrauded stores. The lawsuit alleges Anderson strongly suggested that the suspects were brother and sister and used “manipulative or suggestive techniques” to lead the man to pick out Sandra and Jerome Green.
Anderson wrote warrants for Sandra and Jerome Green’s arrests on financial transaction card fraud on May 4. When Fulton County Sheriff’s deputies attempted to arrest Sandra Green, she explained to them that she was a victim of identity theft and showed the deputies copies of the police reports she had filed, the lawsuit says. The deputies left her home without arresting her because they had “serious doubts about the validity of the allegations of the arrest warrant affidavit,” according to the suit.
Sandra Green met with Anderson on May 24 and told him that she was with a math tutor and her brother was at work at a Coca-Cola facility while the Lawrenceville incidents took place. The day after that meeting, Ferguson was arrested in Oxford, Alabama, for identity theft using another man’s name. Shortly after, detectives in Cherokee and Douglas counties wrote warrants for Ferguson’s arrest on charges related to fraudulent purchases in Sandra Green’s name. Sandra Green was arrested on fraud charges on June 22, 2012 and Jerome Green was arrested on the same charges on Aug. 18, 2012.
Ferguson was sentenced to three years in prison and Hughley was sentenced to 10 years in prison in September 2012 after convictions in Cobb County, and also pleaded guilty to charges in Cherokee and Douglas counties. The Lawrenceville charges against Sandra and Jerome Green weren’t dropped until nearly three years after Hughley’s and Ferguson’s guilty pleas.
Anderson is still employed with the Lawrenceville Police Department, assigned to special operations as a motorcycle officer.