A woman convicted in a scheme to steal the identities of more than 40 people was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years in prison, according to the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office.
A Galveston County jury the same day had convicted Brittany McCutcheon, 31, of Houston, of engaging in organized criminal activity.
The charges stemmed from an October 2017 incident in which police detained McCutcheon after she tried to buy a Bulova watch and $500 gift card at a Kohl’s department store in League City, prosecutors said.
Employees at the store called police because they recognized her from a warning that had been sent to the store by its corporate officers warning about a potential fraud scheme, prosecutors said.
Police checked the social security number McCutcheon had used to open a Kohl’s store account and found the number belonged to a Wisconsin woman. She also had fake driver licenses from Minnesota and Idaho, prosecutors said.
Police then obtained a warrant for McCutcheon’s phone, and found she had identifying information — including names, birth dates and social security numbers — of more than 40 people, prosecutors said.
McCutcheon obtained the personal information off the dark web — a layer of the internet that isn’t visible on search engines and requires a special software to access. Sites operated on the dark web often are used as an online black market.
McCutcheon and five other people used the information they bought off the internet to set up credit accounts and buy merchandise and gift cards, which they would then sell at a discount for cash, prosecutors said.
The charges against McCutcheon were enhanced because they involved other people, and because she had previously been convicted of robbery, prosecutors said. The identity theft scheme began one month after she had been released from prison on parole, they said.
She faced a maximum sentence of life in prison. McCutcheon will have to serve 15 years in prison before she is eligible for parole.
McCutcheon has appealed her conviction and sentence, according to court records.