WESTERLY — Three Hartford-area residents are facing charges after police said the alert actions of a Bank of America employee helped foil their attempts to gain access to customer accounts at various area banks.
Westerly police on Saturday arrested Hartford residents John F. Serrano-Bajana, 31, and Shanika J. Stepney, 30, on charges of first-degree identity fraud and felony conspiracy to commit identity fraud. Stepney is also facing one count of making a false statement regarding identity, while Serrano-Bajana was charged with forgery or counterfeiting of a bank bill or note.
A third suspect, 41-year-old Cromwell resident Deljew Douglas Martin, was also charged with felony conspiracy to commit identity theft.
“This was a case where a bank official not only knew something was wrong with the request, but took the added measure of following the suspect. The employee not only protected the customer, but may have prevented possible future issues as well,” said Westerly Police Lt. Robert Warner.
Officers were notified of suspicious activity around noon Saturday after the bank employee called to report a woman, identified as Stepney, had come in and attempted to obtain a temporary card for an existing account while using a fake ID.
The employee became suspicious when that Stepney looked considerably younger than the age of 49 listed on the license and when the employee asked for a second form of ID after photocopying the first ID, police said Stepney became uneasy and quickly left. The bank turned the photocopy over to police.
The employee then followed Stepney, detailing her path as she walked from the bank to Pier Cleaners near the intersection of Route 1 and East Avenue. The employee and other witnesses also saw interactions between Stepney, Serrano-Bajana and Martin in the laundromat parking lot.
After speaking with three, police said they intiially denied knowing one another and were not cooperative before both Stepney and Martin admitted to coming to town with Serrano-Bajana. Further investigation also led police to find the fake ID on Stepney, along with her real license, and a fraudulent check containing legitimate account information that was found with Serrano-Bajana’s wallet and cell phone. In addition, police said detectives also seized two envelops, which contained several bank checks and a total of three fake IDs that had Serrano-Bajana’s picture along with false information.
All three were arraigned in Fourth Division District Court on Monday and were released on bond. They have not entered a plea to any charges, according to court records.
Serrano-Bajana was released on a $500 bond and is due in Washington County Superior Court for a felony screening on Aug. 7, according to court records. Stepney and Martin were each turned over to Connecticut for violation of probation and are due back in court for a felony screening on Aug. 17.