David J. Miller admitted stealing the identities of two men last summer, and then buying more than $20,000 worth of jewelry, smartphones and other items.
The name of his first victim was David J. Miller.
The name of his second victim also was David J. Miller.
Miller, the one who stole from the other Millers, got access to their personal information – including dates of birth and social security numbers – while working at a collection agency.
His early July spree was the latest scheme by a man investigators say is a professional crook. He is 51, lives in Williamsville and has been convicted of a felony six times, according to authorities, and was on parole at the time of his most recent scam.
Miller, who was arrested Tuesday and pleaded guilty the same day, apparently looked for other David Millers with dates of birth relatively close to his. There are 39 David Millers listed as registered voters this year just in Erie County.
Although he used stolen personal information to create credit at area stores, he used his own driver’s license as well for the application.
He was calm and cool in the stores when he applied for the credit cards, engaging the employees in conversation.
“He’s believable. He’s a pro. This is what he does,” said Detective Daniel Brinkerhoff of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, the lead investigator on the case. “He’s not a 19-year-old kid shaking and sweating and looking over their shoulder.”
Miller’s experience helped him with his most recent identity thefts. He stuck around in the stores after opening the accounts, instead of leaving right away.
“There was no reason to believe he was doing anything shady,” Brinkerhoff said.
The investigation began in July after Miller opened up a credit card at the JC Penney store at the Eastern Hills Mall.
He immediately used the card to buy around $1,000 in jewelry, items he then went to another department and returned the merchandise.
But Miller didn’t want the money put back on his card. Instead, he wanted the money refunded in the form of gift cards.
That set off a red flag for store security, who alerted the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.
The very next day, Miller opened another credit card account at the JC Penney store at the Walden Galleria using a different David J. Miller’s date of birth and social security number. Over the course of several days, he also got store credit cards at Best Buy, Kohl’s and Verizon.
Two stores – Sears and Victoria’s Secret – turned down Miller’s credit applications.
Investigators said it’s possible Miller was able to scam other people named David Miller elsewhere in the country, but they just haven’t heard of them yet.
Despite his initial success, the career criminal also made mistakes, ones which made it easier for authorities to track him down.
First, he used his own driver’s license as identification. Second, each store had surveillance video of Miller opening the accounts.
Officials at the collection agency where Miller used to work were cooperative with the investigation, Brinkerhoff said. Miller was fired after his employer heard him making phone calls checking on the status of credit card applications, he said.
Miller pleaded guilty to three counts of felony forgery and one count of felony identity theft in an agreement made without the case going to a grand jury. He is scheduled to be sentenced in State Supreme Court on Jan. 26.
Brinkerhoff said he believes the stores probably would have been able to catch Miller if they had seen that the date of birth on his driver’s license differed from what he submitted on his credit application. Though he said he was not trying to blame the stores, a little more research may have led to Miller’s applications being denied, he said.
Miller has a lengthy criminal history, according to an online database from the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision:
• A conviction for possession of stolen property landed him a 1½- to 3-year prison sentence in 2001.
• Miller was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison in 2011 after he was convicted of driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle.
• He was sentenced to between 18 and 37 months for a conviction on second-degree attempted criminal possession of a forged instrument which he began serving in February 2014.