Facebook helps police connect dots in Wells Fargo fraud case

crime

Ormond Beach Police used Facebook to help make connections in the Wells Fargo fraud case. 

BY EMILY BLACKWOOD | STAFF WRITER

Facebook is for more than reconnecting with high school sweethearts.

Police in Ormond Beach recently used the social media site to identify a key player in the recent Wells Fargo fraud case. According to the police report, a photo of one of the male suspects was broadcast on Facebook, where a user identified him as Joe Hopkins.

Not only did Hopkins lead police to five other people involved in the case, including the manager of the Ormond Beach bank. Interviews with Hopkins revealed the manager, Jomar Lizardo, had organized Hopkins to make an unauthorized $8,000 withdrawal from Ormond Beach resident John N. Upchurch’s account.

Lizardo admitted to his involvement in the scheme to steal money from customers by using stolen identities to withdraw cash from those customers’ accounts. He has been the only one charged in the case.

Nearly $45,000 in withdrawals was made unknowingly from accounts at the bank, located at 1100 W. Granada Blvd., in Ormond Beach. Bill McCann, vice president of internal investigations at Wells Fargo, didn’t charge Hopkins in the case for naming others involved and telling what he knew to police.

But Ormond Beach Police are not the only ones using social media to solve crimes. A 2012 report by Lexis Nexis Risk Solutions found that four out of five respondents use various social media platforms to assist in investigations. It also stated that agencies serving smaller populations and with fewer sworn personnel, such as Ormond Beach, are more likely to use social media.

“Investigation and analysis of social media content provides a huge opportunity in terms of crime-prevention and offender-apprehension,” said Samantha Gwinn, Government Solutions Consultant for LexisNexis Risk Solutions.

The survey of 1,200 federal, state and local law enforcement professionals discussed how one of the participants said social media provided information on a terrorist threat on a local high school.

“Further investigation revealed the threats were credible, and we conducted follow-up investigations which revealed a student intent on harming others,” states the survey. “The student was in the process of attempting to acquire weapons. It’s my belief we avoided a Columbine-type scenario.”

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