9-year federal sentence for mail theft ringleader who ‘spent his entire adult life stealing’

CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago sentenced the ringleader of a sprawling mail and identity theft operation to nine years in prison this week. In court filings, lawyers from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago said 29-year-old Davey Hines “has spent his entire adult life stealing from others or committing fraud to support his—at times—lavish lifestyle.”

Between June 2018 and December 2019, Hines spearheaded an identity theft operation fueled by postal service employees who stole credit cards and personal information from the mail, federal officials said.

Hines and ten co-conspirators “stole more than 657 credit cards and made more than $462,719 in fraudulent purchases” during the life of the scam, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago. Officials said the personal information of over 1,000 mail customers across Chicagoland, including birthdates and Social Security numbers, was also compromised.

Prosecutors said that Hines and the mail carriers often communicated through Snapchat because they believed their messages would disappear after a while. Hines collected stolen credit cards and personal information from mail carriers and used the cards to buy electronics and other merchandise. He rewarded the postal workers with cash and other valuables, according to prosecutors.

In a pre-sentencing memorandum, federal prosecutors said Hines’ first conviction was for retail theft at the age of 18. A year later, he was convicted of altering credit cards to purchase money cards. While on probation for that, he was convicted of aggravated assault of a peace officer. And the following year, he was convicted of bank fraud and sentenced to 30 years in prison, the government’s lawyers wrote.

While on supervised release after that sentence, Hines was convicted of two more identity theft charges for using stolen credit cards. And the mail theft scheme was carried out while he was on supervised release for those charges, said the prosecutors.

According to Hines’ federal probation officer, “nothing can deter the defendant. He appears to be driven by greed as, with no significant history of legitimate employment, he was driving luxury vehicles and living off of illegally obtained funds, without any desire to repay the victims from whom he previously stole.”

Federal officials asked U.S. District Court Judge Edmond E. Chang to sentence Hines to 212 months in prison, arguing that the total of the stolen cards’ credit limits was $3,681,337. But Hines’ attorney, Beau B. Brindley, argued that only proven losses should be considered. He recommended a sentence of 41 months.

The scam participants “made a few fraudulent purchases on each card before moving on to the next,” Brindley countered as he tried to temper the federal attorneys’ damage estimates.

Hines pleaded guilty to conspiracy, receipt of stolen mail, unauthorized access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

Judge Chang ordered Hines to reimburse the card-issuing banks for their losses. But the firms may be in for a long wait.

“To date,” the government’s sentencing memorandum said, “Hines has repaid only $275 towards the restitution he still owes in his first federal case.”

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