A Florida man and his alleged accomplices traveled to Portland with the sole purpose of breaking into women’s cars — typically by cruising parks, day cares and gyms — to steal their purses, wallets and identificationand then recruited locals to cash almost $100,000 in forged checks at banks around town, federal prosecutors said.
Damian B. Fletcher, 27, and his alleged cohort found women with drug addictions and homeless people to impersonate the victims and collect the money, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Uram.
Fletcher and his conspirators would use the outermost lane of a bank drive-up window so it would be harder for a bank teller to compare a stolen driver’s license photo to the impersonator and to ensure a quicker getaway if someone became suspicious, Uram said.
Fletcher was sentenced Monday to just over three years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. He was also ordered to pay $98,733 in restitution.
He is one of six defendants charged in the case and the first to be sentenced. Four of the other defendants are from Florida. One is from Washington state.
He and his crew also flew to Washington state and Colorado to commit a similar scheme, Uram said.
Prosecutors described Fletcher as part of a so-called “Felony Lane Gang,” an interstate criminal group based in Florida that travels to locations throughout the country to commit vehicle break-ins and fraud. Law enforcement and bank personnel have dubbed the outer lane in a bank drive-up as the “felony lane,” because it’s the chosen lane for such crimes, Uram wrote in his sentencing memo.
Fletcher and his group broke into at least 32 cars in the Portland area and stole $98,733 after cashing 22 checks at five banks, according to court records. The banks were able to stop payment on some of the checks but ultimately lost $57,650, prosecutors said.
The group tried to cash another $122,000 in checks but were rejected, Uram said.
“Fletcher and his co-conspirators were in some instances bold enough and uncaring enough to prey on women who left their cars for only a few minutes to walk their children into day care locations,” Uram wrote to the judge.
Other women lost items of significant sentimental value, according to court documents. One had a wedding ring stolen. Another had a purse snatched that was one of the last gifts she received from her elderly father.
Fletcher flew from Fort Lauderdale to Portland at least three times from September to November 2019, staying in Portland from two to five weeks at a time, Uram said.
Fletcher’s defense lawyer, Jamie Kilberg, described his client’s crimes as “as unsophisticated as a bank fraud case can be.” Fletcher didn’t make fake IDs or counterfeit checks, for example, Kilberg said. He also doesn’t have a criminal history, his lawyer said.
Fletcher is the father of a 3-year-old son who has lived his entire life in the Fort Lauderdale area, Kilberg said. Kilberg sought a lesser sentence of two years and six months.
But while the prosecutor agreed that Fletcher’s crime spree wasn’t complicated or terribly technical, he described it as extremely “personal,” saying that Fletcher and the other smash-and-grab defendants hit cars just as their owners and occupants had walked away or were about to return.
“The physical invasion of privacy, the emotional reaction to seeing a person’s safety zone violated in that way, and then of course, the financial difficulties” were devastating and disruptive to the victims, Uram said.
Fletcher appeared for his sentencing via video from the Miami area and apologized to his victims.
U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman sentenced him to one year and one day for the bank fraud conspiracy, which will allow Fletcher to earn credit for good time served, and two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft conviction.
He also ordered Fletcher to submit to substance abuse testing when he’s completed his prison term while on post-prison supervision.
Co-defendants Delvin Mills, 29, of Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., Megan Spurlock, 27, of Washington, and Linda Marie Lupo, 52, of Deerfield, Fla., have all pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Justin Curry, 28 of Fort Lauderdale, and Treveon Donte Jordan, 23, of Lauderdale Lakes, are on pre-trial release pending a four-day jury trial scheduled for June 15.