HOUSTON – On May 23, Clayton Fuller was pulled over for having an expired registration and drug paraphernalia in plain view. After searching the car, police found something unexpected: payroll checks, an Uber Visa card and photocopies of driver’s licenses -- none of which belonged to Fuller.
What we know
The Hedwig Village Police Department conducted an investigation on Fuller and found that he had stolen the driver’s licenses and paychecks from mailboxes and cars. The identity theft victims told Hedwig Village PD stories of stolen purses and briefcases, missing checks and mailboxes that had been broken into.
None of the victims said they knew Fuller.
Police said they had stopped Fuller for a traffic stop May 23 after seeing that his license plate did not match the vehicle and that his registration was expired. During the stop, detectives found drug paraphernalia in plain sight, which gave them probable cause to search the rest of the car. That's when a detective found a glove compartment and a laptop bag with sensitive information.
Payroll, altered checks
Along with payroll checks, black payroll sheets of checks and financial information, investigators found two checks that had been altered.
The first check was for $1,600 and was made out to Clayton Fuller. Another check was for $2,350 but made out to another person. The owner of those checks told police he never authorized those checks.
Another victim had a personal check issued from her personal account for $1,400 and said she never issued the check but that her apartment complex had had its mailboxes broken into.
There was also a check from a school. It had $780 written on it. The manager had told police that the check had been stolen.
In another case, court documents say, a woman reported her purse stolen, and someone tried to used her Uber credit card. That card was also found in Fuller's possession, according to police.
Fuller was arrested May 23 for the traffic violation.
He is out on bond. However, Hedwig Village police said they have issued a new warrant for a felony charge of fraudulent possession of identifying information.
What victims are saying
Hedwig Village PD contacted Joe Nelson, one of the victims, to inform him that Fuller had photocopies of his and his wife’s driver’s licenses and was attempting to use them to open credit cards. Nelson said that since Fuller was unable to use his or his wife’s identities, they were able to laugh off the incident. However, he admits they were shaken up knowing that someone had access to that information.
“I hope that this is the extent of identity theft problems we have to deal with in our life,” Nelson said. “It is kind of scary, especially this is, you know, hard copy stuff, but there’s so much electronic information on the internet now.”
What can you do to protect yourself
Sgt. M.J. Collins, with Hedwig Village PD, said this volume of fraud is not uncommon for identity thieves and advises the public to be careful with their identification.
For keeping physical documents safe, Collins recommends people be aware of their surroundings and keep an eye on their belongings in public. He recommends not carrying any identification you don’t need, such as spare credit cards or copies of identification. If you do have to leave identification in your car, Collins recommends locking it in the trunk so no one can see it.
"Purse theft, especially now at the gas stations, people who are getting out to pump gas, leaving their purse in the car, and someone will just drive up, open the door and grab the purse and take off running," Collins said.
Collins also advises people to check all their bank statements and credit reports for anything out of the ordinary.
For victims of identity theft, Collins recommends a booklet called Identity Theft Understanding and Investigation by Lou Savelli. The book can help people handle the situation after their identity is stolen.