Miss. woman gets almost 7 years for identity theft

Published 1:06 am Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bria Danielle Morris was sentenced to nearly seven years Friday for stealing the identity of someone she met at a women’s shelter and using it to rip off a charity, businesses and people.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordan sentenced Morris, 29, to 81 months in federal prison. The sentence was increased for obstruction because Morris attacked a law enforcement officer and tried to beat the charges by acting mentally incompetent to stand trial.

She was also convicted of aggravated identity theft, which carries a two year-sentence on top of any other jail time a defendant receives. The two years was tacked onto Morris’ nearly five-year sentence on the other charges, including bank fraud and conspiracy.

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Morris used a Social Security number she stole from a woman in the shelter where both women were then staying to get a driver’s license and open accounts at several banks where she cashed counterfeit checks, some drawn on the accounts of individuals, businesses and a charity, prosecutors said.

Standing before the judge in shackles and an orange jumpsuit, Morris apologized to the court and her victims. She said she would spend her time in prison trying to develop skills that would make her a “productive citizen.”

Jordan said the sentence was appropriate to deter others from identity theft and to protect the public.

“Identity theft is a growing problem and is a problem that has victimized a number of people in our society,” he said.

Jordan postponed sentencing Morris’ accomplice, Jaynita Coleman, to give her attorney notice that he intends to increase her sentence for feigning incompetence.

Morris even created a false business to further the scheme, in which she and Coleman tried to steal more than $160,000 from September 2007 to January 2008. They also tried to buy a Cadillac Escalade from a dealer in Michigan, prosecutors said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dave Fulcher told the court the government is seeking forfeiture of cash, a laptop and other items.

Both women used a computer to generate fake documents and counterfeit checks, prosecutors said. Morris pleaded guilty in July to mail fraud, bank fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy charges. Coleman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Morris has previously been convicted on similar charges.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.