How do you know if you are a victim of identity theft?
A Montgomery County farmer used an elected state official’s identity in a scam to sell off equipment and cattle the farmer had pledged as security for loans, a federal grand jury has charged.
The grand jury indicted Steven Ray Williams, 57, on charges of fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Williams had listed 34 pieces of equipment, 14 bulls and 215 cows as collateral for loans through the Farm Service Agency, part of the U.S Department of Agriculture, according to the indictment.
Williams stayed current on his loan payments until April 2011, when he stopped paying. He later filed for bankruptcy.
Williams sold equipment and cattle, but instead of applying the proceeds to his debts, he used the money for personal expenses or other purposes, according to the indictment.
Williams hid what he was doing by having the checks written to other people, then forging their names on the checks to cash them.
On one incident cited in the indictment, Williams allegedly forged the name of a Farm Service Agency official to sell a piece of equipment, and in another he used the name of a bankruptcy trustee, the indictment said.
In six cattle sales in 2014 and 2015, Williams had the checks issued to a person identified only as D.H., then endorsed them and deposited the money in his account, the indictment said.
D.H. was the state representative for the Mount Sterling area at the time, according to the indictment.
That victim did not know Williams and had no knowledge his name had been used as part of the fraud, the indictment said.
Rep. David Hale, a Republican from Wellington, said Monday that his name was among those Williams allegedly forged.
“I had no knowledge of it,” he said of the scam.
Williams attempted to avoid repaying more than $150,000, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan’s office.
The bank fraud charges carry a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.