Couple serves jail time in bank identity theft case

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- When you think of a bank robbery, images of armed, masked men might come to mind, but that's not the case anymore. 

"Crystal and Carter Smith recruited a person from the inside to assist her with getting banking information basically," U.S. Postal Inspector Essialani Hollier-Jackson said.

The bank insider gave the Smiths' account information and identifiers.

"They had a third party who ends up being Elise Bell, who went in and attempted and actually successfully took all of the money out of the victims' account," Hollier-Jackson said.

The group stole $150,000 from one victim alone.

"These funds - these were her life savings and she was so distraught she couldn`t understand how this happened," Hollier-Jackson said.

As postal inspectors began digging, they found this case was just the beginning for the Smiths.

"They did use other different people identifiers but they did use their faces," Hollier-Jackson said.

Inspectors quickly learned the Smiths were career criminals.

"They lived in a very nice home that they had stolen, of course. They both drove nice cars that were bought in someone else`s names. During a search warrant we did find a large amount of cash at one house," Hollier-Jackson said.

As inspectors closed in on the duo, they turned on each other.

"The best part is they are such good criminals that they both talked about the other to improve their status in terms of the investigation. It wasn`t me it was her. It wasn`t me it was her. So there was a lot of blaming back and forth," Hollier-Jackson said.

In this case, there was very little the victim could have done to protect her bank account. However, inspectors say there are steps we all can take.

"Check your credit report. Check it regularly. If there is anything on it that appears odd or shouldn`t be there, contact the Credit Bureau and find out what`s going on," Hollier-Jackson said.

Also -- check your mail. If you are missing something you were expected, call the company right away.

"If you`re not going to be home, put a vacation hold on your mail. The Post Office would be more than happy to hold your mail until you get back. These are the things criminals are looking for and they are easy ways for you to protect yourself," Hollier-Jackson said.

The Smiths were linked to fraud totaling more than $1 million. They were each sentenced to more than three years in jail.