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Fake ride-share driver cleans out bank accounts of victims in Chicago, authorities say

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CHICAGO — Authorities said a parolee with a long history of identity theft and credit card scams masqueraded as a ride-share driver downtown and cleaned out the bank accounts of at least four people after gaining access to their bank cards.

Police accuse Lance Baymon, 39, of prowling bars and restaurants in Chicago’s Loop and River North areas between March and July and withdrawing more than $24,000 cash from four victims’ accounts, including $19,000 taken from one in mid-July.

A Cook County judge ordered Baymon, of south suburban Lansing, held on $150,000 bail on multiple identity theft and continuing a criminal enterprise charges during a hearing Sunday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building.

In court, prosecutors described Baymon’s ruse: In each instance, Baymon — who is on parole for separate theft and identity theft convictions — is accused of identifying himself as the victim’s driver and asking for a debit card. In three of those incidents, Baymon allegedly swiped the card using a device attached to his phone and gave the riders an identical card without them noticing, said Assistant State’s Attorney Ryan Gallagher. In one instance, he didn’t return the victim’s card.

In each case, the victims received notices of unauthorized withdrawals from their bank account, Gallagher said.

Surveillance video at at least two businesses captured Baymon using an ATM to withdraw the victim’s cash, authorities said. After months of investigation, police arrested Baymon on Saturday at Chase Tower in the Loop.

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It was unclear whether authorities suspect other victims will come forward.

Popular ride-share apps like Uber ask that riders verify their driver’s identity using the app before getting into a vehicle, adding that customers aren’t asked for payment during the ride.

Following Sunday’s hearing, Chicago police warned people using ride-share programs to remain vigilant, saying riders are increasingly being targeted by criminals falsely posing as drivers. Last year, a string of robberies were tied to fake ride-share drivers who robbed their passengers at gunpoint.

“Opportunists capitalize on this and troll around bar and entertainment areas looking for easy victims,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. “We are finding that individuals are leaving bars and entertainment venues and not paying attention to their surroundings. Also, people are on their phones and are distracted and they get into the wrong cars.”

He added that ride-share companies also employ retired law enforcement officers who help monitor and track suspicious activity.

In addition to the 2016 theft and 2014 identity theft convictions, Baymon has separate convictions for misuse of credit cards and escape. If he makes bail, Judge John F. Lyke Jr. ordered Baymon held on electronic home monitoring.




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