3 charged in Central Florida ID theft ring with 2K victims

Preferred Guests Resorts worker sold reservation documents to duo, cops say

By Jeff McAdam, Michelle Dendy - Web Editor

ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando police have arrested three suspects after an identity theft ring was broken up by an 85-year-old man.

The Orlando Police Department is pursuing multiple charges, including grand theft of a motor vehicle, scheme to defraud and trafficking in counterfeit credit cards.

Police said Chrystie Hall, Bridgett Bennifield and Xavier Stephens have known each other for years, but have only been operating the identity theft ring since December.

According to OPD, Hall worked at a vacation reservations company called Preferred Guest Resorts LLC in Winter Park for the past 12 years. Since December, police said she has taken customer credit card information and sold it to Bennifield and Stephens instead of shredding the documents. The documents were sold to Bennifield and Stephens for $100 a bag.

Bennifield and Stephens would then use that credit information to buy things before they, in turn, sold the information once more to someone else at $50 a page. Police said in all, there are at least 1,855 victims in the ring, but said the number could be a lot higher.

"That's only what was recovered on them," said OPD Master Sergeant Rhonda Hucklebery. "We could be looking at just the tip of the iceberg."

Police ultimately tracked down Bennifield and Stephens after they rented a car from Thrifty at Orlando International Airport using the stolen credit card information of an 85-year-old man. The victim reached out to police when he noticed the rental car charge on his credit card. Police were then able to track the rented car to a FedEx location in Orlando. Using the OnStar technology inside the car, OPD said they shut the car down, rendering the car inoperable.

When Police caught up to Stephens and Bennifield they found two large bags filled with stolen credit card information in them.

"She was calm and collected," Hucklebery said of Bennifield. "They were both cooperative and gave us the full story. They admitted to buying the information back to at least December 2014."

However, Bennifield adamantly denied the allegations. In an interview with Local 6 News, Bennifield said she was dating Stephens and didn't know the information was in the back seat.

"I told them I didn't know what was in that bag," Bennifield explained. "That stuff was in the car, not on me."

But OPD said Bennifield has been arrested on fraud allegations before, and believe she was forthcoming with information involving the identity theft ring at the time of her arrest.

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