Like a lousy movie playing over and over on cable for months, Lew C. Cox (a.k.a. "Showtyme" or "Sho" or Lewellyn) is himself an annoying, tragic rerun.
Having collected six prior convictions for identity theft-related crimes since the 1990s, Cox emerged from prison on parole, lived under a fake name and ran a sophisticated criminal ring that, for at least six years until 2011, used corrupt bank employees to steal more than $8 million from about 500 victims.
Assistant United States Attorney Joseph McNally calls Cox "a lifelong, sophisticated fraudster," with violent, gun-toting tendencies, and believes the crook deserved more than 30 years in prison for operating one of the region's most egregious bank-fraud scams in history.
Cox managed to obtain bank customers' personal information--including social security numbers, mothers' maiden names, dates of birth, even copies of their signatures. By phone, he checked customer information in a search for large balances and ordered checks sent to the victims' residences by overnight-transportation services.
By following tracking information, Cox knew delivery times, sent co-conspirators to intercept the packages, forged signatures and employed more than 100 "runners" to cash the checks during the length of the crime spree, according to McNally.
The fraudulent checks ranged from $2,795 to $44,730.
The thief maximized heists by secretly transferring funds from victims' savings accounts into their checking accounts, and then writing the checks.
FBI wiretaps captured the schemers boasting that some older victims wouldn't realize their accounts had been looted.
A defense lawyer for Cox argued that the defendant hadn't been a ringleader, the crimes were "run of the mill," and the U.S. Secret Service exaggerated the amount of the losses and the number of victims. He also tried to portray McNally as a villain in the case by tricking the thief into a guilty plea deal.
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But U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter is no sucker. On July 1, Carter rejected the defense claims and sentenced Cox, 40, to a term of 25 years in prison.
What federal penitentiary will house the thief isn't yet known. He is currently in the custody of the U.S. Marshal. In the past, Cox has resided in the following lovely homes: Wasco State Prison, LA County Jail, Riverside County Jail, North Kern California Rehabilitation Center and two federal facilities in California.