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Instagram ‘food porn’ photo leads IRS to identity thieves

IRS agents said that this Jan. 7 photo of a steak and macaroni and cheese,… (handout, Sun Sentinel )
May 10, 2013|By Paula McMahon, Sun Sentinel
For two South Florida identity thieves, justice came served with a mouthwatering steak and a side order of macaroni and cheese — captured in a “food porn” photo posted online that helped investigators track the couple down.

Nathaniel Troy Maye, 44, of Harlem, N.Y., and Tiwanna Tenise Thomason, 39, of Miramar, are facing up to a dozen years in federal prison and hefty fines. The couple pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft and possession of unauthorized access devices Friday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale.
IRS agents on the trail of a man who claimed he had 700,000 stolen identities to sell said they only had a few clues about who he was early in the investigation.

A witness working undercover for the IRS told agents the man went by the name “Troy,” he was dating Thomason and said he was from Harlem during a Jan. 5 meeting at YOLO restaurant on Las Olas Boulevard.

The break came Jan. 7 after the three met up again – at the swanky Morton’s steakhouse on the corner of Federal Highway and Broward Boulevard – so the couple could turn over a flash drive containing 50,000 identities they thought would be used to file fraudulent income tax returns.

When IRS agents examined the drive – which contained only 50 identities – they found hidden data linking the drive to “Troy Maye.”

Louis Babino, a special agent with the IRS criminal investigation unit, searched online and found a profile for “TROYMAYE” on Instagram, a social media website for sharing photos.

Babino wrote that he found “a photo of a steak and macaroni and cheese meal containing the caption “Morton’s” that coincided with the Jan. 7 meeting between the witness and the couple.

The agent also found a profile photo of Maye on the Instagram profile, which the witness identified as the man who gave him the drive and promised to provide the rest of the 50,000 identities – in exchange for payment after fraudulent tax returns were filed in the victims’ names, agents said.

IRS agents arrested the couple at Thomason’s apartment and said they found two flash drives containing as many as 55,000 illegally obtained identities.

Thomason, who is free on bond and working as a bartender in Miami pending her July 19 sentencing, cried as she told the judge she had no excuse: “I was foolish, I was stupid.”

Maye, who said he organized promotional events and has a prior conviction for wire fraud, will remain locked up.


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