They come wearing a uniform we all trust: the United States Postal Service. But the women making huge purchases, authorities say, are pulling an incredible ruse that's already damaged hundreds of lives across South Florida.
The hunt is on to find those still on the loose who are pulling off one of the most clever schemes yet to steal your identity. Just about everyone knows the postal service worker who comes to your home and it's that familiarity and faith that takes the scheme to new heights.
Federal Postal Inspectors say the good name of the U.S. Postal Service is being used to dupe employees at Home Depot into allowing the sale of items running into the thousands. Smiling women in postal uniforms buying just about everything: refrigerators, ovens, lamps, building supplies.
Police say there was another woman in her postal outfit having a fantastic shopping spree at Best Buy. She was seen chatting with three male clerks who loaded up her cart, and then off she went with thousands of electronics out the door. Turns out, none of these women have anything to do with the postal service.
"I would not have believed the things that they did, you could get away with the stuff they did to me," said Teresa Thompson, identity theft victim.
Authorities said it was Kateena Norman who spearheaded the team that grabbed Thompson's identity and came up with the clever scheme that few would really question anyone in a postal uniform. One of her American Express bills was $19,000.
"The best part of it, she even wrote checks that she ordered in my name to pay my credit card for a whole year," Thompson said.
Thompson is just one of hundreds of victims.
The shopping sprees were done by the postal impostors in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Aventura, Hialeah, Miami Beach and Kendall.
"People tend to drop their guard and not check ID or make a phone call. They figure, well, that’s a postal employee, it shouldn't be a problem," said Javier Dominguez, U.S. Postal Inspector.
Police said the woman seen at Best Buy, Monique Barthell, was confident enough in the fake ID's not to wear the uniform. At Victoria's Secret, she dumped a handful of items on the counter.
Authorities said a home in El Portal was the headquarters of the operation located in the normally quiet neighborhood about 10 miles north of Downtown Miami.
"We went inside and found the postal uniform in Kateena's closet and we found a treasure trove of identities," said Det. David Adlet with El Portal Police. "It still hasn't been closed down, the operation."
Adlet is out to find Tenika Nicole Oliver. He said she was at Miami International Airport using the fake IDs and credit cards; rental car agents just handed over the keys.
"Tenika Nicole Oliver, on two separate occasions, is at the Avis counter and in those two videos she poses as two separate victims," Adlet explained.
If you recognize her, you're urged to call your local police department or (877) 876-2455.
Federal and state prosecutors eventually got their hands on Norman and Barthell and put them away but this danger is still lurking as others are on the loose.
There's no final answer as to where they got the postal uniforms in the first place.
For more information on identity theft, click here.