High-flying Oregon-based fraudster gets 8 years

PORTLAND — The team of thieves moved from city to city, sneaking into empty office buildings on Friday nights and snatching everything from autographed photographs of athletes to people's identities, prosecutors said.

Years after the spree started, 17 members of the high-flying identity theft ring have been convicted, including the Portland-based leader who has been sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay $689,000 in restitution, The Oregonian reports.

Prosecutors said Antione Lamontt Lawrence, 37, led a group that burglarized commercial office buildings around the country from 2001 to 2007.

They stole checks, credit cards and personal information, and used it all to create false identification documents and commit bank fraud.

"The audacity is pretty remarkable," said Dwight C. Holton, the U.S. attorney for Oregon. "From Rolex watches to designer suits, this ring thought they were never going to be caught."

In some cases, cleaning crew workers at the buildings were blamed for the thefts and fired.

Lawrence's crew nicknamed him Tony Montana after the Al Pacino character in "Scarface." The ring plotted its scores in strip joints.

In court for his sentencing, Lawrence wore an impeccable suit and a bright blue shirt open at the collar.

Included among the items taken by the thieves were pearls, antique watches, a gold tennis bracelet, computer and printer gear, guns and ammo, a flat-screen TV, collector stamps and sports gear autographed by Michael Jordan, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and the 1990 Portland Trail Blazers.

Lawrence pleaded to bank fraud in May.

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