North Carolina

Scammer in NC identity theft ring leaps from hotel window before capture, feds say

A man accused of perpetrating an identity theft scam with three others in North Carolina sprung from a second-story hotel window to evade police, court documents say.

It didn’t work.

Federal prosecutors said in an indictment released Tuesday that the man, his ex-girlfriend and two others racked up $450,000 on credit cards, buying merchandise and nice cars.

They’ve been charged with various counts of identity theft and fraud.

After his daring escape, police in North Carolina caught Kevin D. Bennett-Rosario, 44, with several fake IDS and sheets of paper with the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of other people, prosecutors said.

The arrest was among a string of incidents over the past year as prosecutors move forward in their investigation of the identity theft ring, according to a criminal complaint.

Starting in October 2018, prosecutors said Bennett-Rosario and his then-girlfriend, Heather Westerfield, 36 — along with Dayton Louis Kolczak, 27, and Jessica Bailey Sowell, 26 — used people’s mail and real estate listings to steal their identities.

“The defendants used the stolen identities of real persons… to create identification cards in the victims’ names, but with the defendants’ photographs,” the indictment states.

Prosecutors said they opened credit cards at places such as Lowe’s, Walmart, Belk, Kohl’s and Target, and purchased vehicles from multiple CarMax dealerships in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Georgia.

Police at one point said they found 48 fake licenses during a search of Westerfield’s Charlotte home, according to the indictment, which also stated that Sowell’s car was found in South Carolina with 10 counterfeit licenses and credit cards.

She and Westerfield were later caught in another part of the state with six licenses and additional credit cards as well as other people’s Social Security numbers, mail and tax documents, the indictment states.

Meanwhile, prosecutors said Bennett-Rosario was trying to purchase a Lexus from a used luxury car dealership for $43,000 using a fake ID. He left when a salesman there reportedly realized the documents were counterfeit.

According to the indictment, an employee in Charlotte also found 33 fake IDs in an abandoned hotel room. The IDs had photos of both Bennett-Rosario and Westerfield.

Police in Georgia found Westerfield again in April stepping out of a red 2015 Lexus she bought with a stolen ID, court documents say.

“Westerfield was in possession of numerous items of new men’s and women’s clothing in the back seat and price tags still attached, as well as an identification card printer and encoder and numerous new iPhones,” the indictment states.

Shortly thereafter, police reportedly stopped Bennett-Rosario in a 2014 BMW M6 in South Carolina. Prosecutors said he gave the officer a fake name and ID before speeding away.

“Bennett-Rosario drove away from the officer causing a hit and run car crash,” according to the indictment.

Law enforcement in North Carolina reportedly found the BMW outside of a hotel in Salisbury four days later, at which point Bennett-Rosario made his attempted escape through a window.

Kolczak also reportedly bought a 2019 Cadillac from a dealership in Nashville, Tennessee over the summer.

Prosecutors charged the group with several counts of aggravated identity theft and bank and wire fraud.

Westerfield was arrested in Charleston in July, detention records show.

Deputies in South Carolina picked up Kolczak on Tuesday, according to the York County Sheriff’s Office, while police in Charlotte arrested Sowell late Wednesday night, the docket shows.

Bennett-Rosario was arrested in August in Charlotte, according to county inmate records.

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Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.