WEST PALM BEACH — His face distorted by regrets and with tears streaming down his face, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputy Frantz Felisma was sentenced to five years in a federal prison this afternoon for his participation in an identity theft ring.
Felisma, 42, apologized for using his PBSO-issued squad car computer to look up the personal information of hundreds of local motorists driving fancy cars and selling that information to thieves who used it to open credit card and bank accounts in the names of the unsuspecting motorists.
“I abused my position of trust,” Felisma said to the judge as dozens of relatives filled the courtroom. “All my life I just wanted to do good. I don’t want to hurt nobody. I love people so much.”
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw‘s sterling recruit was arrested late last year after a federal investigation kept secret from PBSO but with the assistance of the Lantana Police Department.
Bradshaw has yet to contact the motorists who were targeted and apologize for his deputy’s behavior.
Felisma, a seven-year veteran of Palm Beach County’s finest, pleaded guilty to aggravated identify theft and credit card fraud.
In addition to the prison sentence, he was fined $175,000. In all, it was estimated he made $250,000 from the sale of the information.
How did the scam work?
According to two accomplices who pleaded guilty to participating to the conspiracy, Felisma was asked to run the license plates of high-priced cars gleaned at random on the streets.
With the tag numbers, Felisma would find out through his squad car computer the name of the car owners as well as social security number, address, date of birth and other information. Over the years, he could’ve ran the tags of several hundred cars.
For his work, Felisma was allegedly paid $10,000 a month, more than his pay as deputy.
With Felisma’s info, the gang would then open bank and credit card accounts, and spend money.
In one instance, according to the paperwork, the group stole up to $40,000 in the name of an unsuspecting motorist.
The court papers tell how, as the current holiday season drew near, Felisma ran a particularly high number of tags, often while off-duty.