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Navy veteran, wife used Navy inside information to steal thousands of IDs, feds say

Judge's gavel. (Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau/U.S. Air Force)

A former Navy chief petty officer and his wife, a Naval Reservist, have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Fresno on identity theft charges that involve thousands of people, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The Selma couple, Marquis Asaad Hooper, 30, and Natasha Renee Chalk, 37, have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Hooper turned himself in Tuesday and was arraigned. Chalk was arrested and arraigned on Monday.

Court documents reveal an alleged scheme that gave the couple access to millions of people’s personal information. They are accused of selling the information to third parties in exchange for about $160,000 in bitcoin. Federal officials estimate the number of victims is in the “thousands.”

Investigators said the couple began their illegal venture in 2018 when Hooper was stationed in Japan as a chief petty officer with the Navy’s 7th Fleet. His wife was a reservist stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California.

Hooper separated from the Navy in October 2018 after a 10-year career, but before his separation was final, he and Chalk allegedly duped a company that works with businesses — banks, for instance — that need to confirm information on loan applications or government agencies, such as police departments, that use it to to locate suspects.

In late August 2018, federal prosecutors said, Hooper contacted the company, claiming the 7th Fleet needed access to the database to run background checks on Navy personnel. The company approved the request and Hooper signed the company’s subscriber agreement, pretending to be working on behalf of his fleet.

In reality, Hooper was acting on his own behalf, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. And over the next two and a half months, Hooper and Chalk searched for tens of thousands of individuals on the database and sold the information they got on the black market in exchange for bitcoin. Third parties used the information to commit identity theft.

If convicted, Hooper and Chalk face a maximum of 20 years in prison on the conspiracy and wire fraud charges and a mandatory two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence, on the aggravated identity theft charges.

The case was the result of an investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Vincente A. Tennerelli and Joseph D. Barton are prosecuting the case.


(c) 2021 The Fresno Bee

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