Newport News resident sentenced to 3 years behind bars for identity theft, mail fraud scheme

Christopher Phillips.PNG
Posted at 12:11 PM, Dec 16, 2020

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - People living in rural areas across Hampton Roads had their identities stolen over the course of several weeks, and now one of the people responsible is learning his fate from a judge.

Christopher Phillips, 25, was sentenced to three years in prison for identity theft and mail fraud.

Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office Captain Tommy Potter said authorities are still looking for Marvin Pretto, who is also accused of being involved in the crimes.

The New York natives were both living in Newport News, according to authorities.

Law enforcement said they would research information about people in the region, apply for credit cards in their name, then track the mail and even follow mail routes to steal the new credit cards out of the victims' mailboxes.

Many of the victims lived in rural areas.

“It would not surprise me if the same type of activity wasn't happening possibly in New York or other parts of the country,” Potter said. “They knew that, on average, it would take seven to 10 days from the time they would submit an application. They would start going back to those geographical areas every day and check the mail.”

Potter said they would steal credit cards opened in other people’s names and then charge them for thousands of dollars.

Authorities say there were 12 confirmed victims, but suspect that there may be more. When Phillips was arrested, police found a large amount of stolen mail.

“We identified residents in Isle of Wight County, Southampton County, Sussex and even the city of Suffolk, and they had no idea these accounts have been open until months later when they started getting bills for credit cards that they had no knowledge of.”

Last January News 3 interviewed Troy Latta, who thought he was a possible victim.

“It's just strange, because I'm getting multiple pieces of mail with credit cards in them,” Latta said. "I can pull them out and use them that day, and I've never showed any interest in these companies before, so how do they possibly have my name?”

Law enforcement say there was a loss of about $35,000, as Phillips made a lot of purchases with the stolen credit cards.

“Phillips was basically was living off the proceeds of stuff that he had conned people out of. He lived in a very nice apartment with very nice belongings in that apartment.”

Investigators from several different agencies worked on this case together, including the Isle of Wight Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Postal Service and several other law enforcement agencies.