Instagram Photo Tied Identity Theft Suspects to Meeting with Undercover Informant: Authorities

Nathaniel Troy Maye and his girlfriend Tiwanna Thomason pleaded guilty to two charges, including aggravated identity theft, last Friday, authorities said

A snapshot of a sizzling steak and macaroni meal posted on Instagram turned out to be so juicy, it whetted the appetite of the Internal Revenue Service. The agency used it to track down the picture taker, Nathaniel Troy Maye, who is accused of taking much more than food photos, authorities said.

On Jan. 8 the man, also known as "Troy Maye," was arrested alongside his girlfriend, Tiwanna Thomason, by U.S. marshals at her Broward apartment. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, the IRS used a warrant to search Thomason's home, where they found several computers and storage drives. On those devices were the birth dates, Social Security numbers, and other sensitive data from as many as 55,000 people, many of whom were from out of state.

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The IRS had already been on the case of a man claiming to have 700,000 stolen identities. Maye appeared to be that man, authorities said. An undercover informant was used to get close to the couple. He met with them once, on Jan. 5, at Yolo on Las Olas Boulevard to discuss a scheme to use stolen personal data to file fake income tax returns. Their next meeting, two days later, was at the Fort Lauderdale Morton's steakhouse off Broward Boulevard, where the informant left holding a flash drive full of 50 stolen identities, a criminal complaint said.

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Data on the drive linked it to Maye. A Google search by an IRS special agent led him to Maye's Instagram and tied him, Thomason and the informant to the dinner, and the crime, the complaint said.

Maye, 44, and Thomason, 40, pleaded guilty last Friday to one count of possession of 15 or more unauthorized access devices and one count of aggravated identity theft, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

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They are awaiting sentencing in federal court before U.S. District Judge William Zloch on July 19 and face up to 12 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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