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4-28-2012


FORGERY ALLEGED
‘Felony lane gang’
strikes in county

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark reporter

A gang from Florida referred to as the “felony lane gang” is being held responsible in numerous thefts from automobiles and forgeries occurring throughout the Midwest, as well as other parts of the country.

One of their alleged members is sitting in the Platte County Jail, charged with forgery for an incident at a southern Platte County bank last May.

In a telephone interview with The Landmark, John Joyce, U.S Secret Service agent in Tampa, Fla., described the group as “extremely transit,” never targeting the same place twice.

The “felony lane gang” is comprised of a mixed group of people who target women entering gyms and day cares, said Joyce. They stake out the parking lot and smash in the window of cars to steel personal identification, credit cards, and checkbooks.

The group got the name “felony lane gang” because after they obtain the stolen forms of identification, they quickly go to the third lane of the bank's drive thru disguised like their victim, said Joyce.

Often times they wear wigs to suit the identity theft victim’s hair color, as well as sunglasses.

Joyce said because other groups have morphed out of the original “felony lane gang,” officials cannot make an exact estimate of the group’s total damages, though it is believed to be in the millions of dollars.

Joyce said the group originated in Miami, Fla. several years ago. A special task force in Florida has been successful in derailing the group there. Joyce said it took the various law enforcement agencies working hand-in-hand with the banks to obtain much needed evidence including license plates.

Frequently, the vehicles were rented with stolen credit cards, he said.

In Platte County, prosecutors charged Laura Jane Smith, 37, with forgery linked to this group which has allegedly committed other cases of forgery in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Indiana.

In May of last year, Smith allegedly attempted to cash a stolen check with fraudulent identification in the drive-thru of U.S. Bank located at 6405 N. Cosby. During the cash checking transaction, the bank teller alarmed the suspect by asking her a series of questions.

Authorities say she then proceeded to flee the scene, leaving behind the $1,000 stolen check, state issued ID, and bank card.

During the investigation, local authorities were contacted by a detective from the Overland Park Police Department, who determined the forged checks were stolen from Overland Park, Kan., and were linked by account holder name, as well as account number to additional forgeries and theft from automobiles committed by the “felony lane gang.”

According to the probable cause statement, Smith was positively identified by witnesses when shown a photo-spread as the suspect was attempting to cash a fraudulent check on May 11, 2011.

She has allegedly also been identified through other forms of evidence submitted to authorities by bank employees.

In addition to her charge of forgery in Platte County, Smith faces five counts of forgery in Jackson County. Her bond there has been set at $10,000.

Smith's last known address is located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She remains in custody in Platte County Jail, with her next scheduled court appearance set for this Thursday, April 26.