Mar­ried Up­per Dublin busi­ness own­ers face jail for iden­tity theft scheme

Springfield Sun - - NEWS - By Carl Hessler Jr. chessler@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @Mont­cocourtnews on Twit­ter

NOR­RIS­TOWN >> A hus­band and wife who op­er­ated an Up­per Dublin heat­ing and air con­di­tion­ing busi­ness are headed to jail to­gether af­ter they fraud­u­lently used the iden­ti­ties of peo­ple from Mont­gomery, Ch­ester and Bucks coun­ties to open credit ac­counts with a fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion.

Philadel­phia res­i­dents Eric La­mont Martin, 34, and Por­tia D. Martin, 31, pleaded guilty in Mont­gomery County Court to mul­ti­ple counts of iden­tity theft, theft by de­cep­tion and con­spir­acy to com­mit thefts in con­nec­tion with in­ci­dents that oc­curred in 2015.

Eric Martin, who is listed in court doc­u­ments as pres­i­dent of Cen­tra-spike Inc., a heat­ing, ven­ti­la­tion and air con­di­tion­ing com­pany lo­cated in the Fort Wash­ing­ton sec­tion of Up­per Dublin, was sen­tenced to 11 ½ to 23 months in the county jail, to be fol­lowed by eight years of pro­ba­tion and 500 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice, in con­nec­tion with the thefts.

Por­tia Martin, who ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers is listed as vice-pres­i­dent of Cen­tra-spike, was sen­tenced to six to 23 months in the county jail, to be fol­lowed by eight years’ pro­ba­tion and 300 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice.

The Martins, who are el­i­gi­ble for the jail’s work release pro­gram dur­ing their in­car­cer­a­tion, also must share in the pay­ment of $116,000 that re­mains in resti­tu­tion to be paid to Syn­chrony Fi­nan­cial of Ohio. De­tec­tives iden­ti­fied Syn­chrony Bank as a fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pany that al­lows in­di­vid­u­als to fi­nance home im­prove­ment projects com­pleted by com­pa­nies.

The pun­ish­ments were im­posed by Judge Thomas C. Branca.

“The bot­tom line is he ad­mit­ted to ob­tain­ing in­di­vid­u­als’ per­sonal in­for­ma­tion for the pur­poses of ob­tain­ing credit from a fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion,” de­fense lawyer An­drew Laird said on Eric Martin’s be­half, ex­plain­ing the na­ture of the guilty plea.

Laird ar­gued for a sen­tence of house ar­rest or at least a sen­tence that in­cluded a work release pro­vi­sion.

“Ob­vi­ously, my client is re­morse­ful and ac­cepts full re­spon­si­bil­ity for what took place. We asked that he be able to con­tinue to ei­ther work his HVAC busi­ness or other gain­ful em­ploy­ment for the pur­poses of pay­ing back the resti­tu­tion to Syn­chrony Bank,” Laird said.

The theft to­taled about $124,000, ac­cord­ing to au­thor­i­ties. The eight iden­tity theft vic­tims were pri­mar­ily el­derly and they resided in Hat­boro, East Nor­ri­ton, Up­per Dublin and Abing­ton in Mont­gomery County; in Ch­ester Springs, Ch­ester County; and in Warmin­ster, Bucks County.

“She ac­knowl­edged tak­ing the per­sonal in­for­ma­tion off of med­i­cal records from a med­i­cal prac­tice where she was work­ing,” de­fense lawyer Martin P. Mul­laney ex­plained on be­half of Por­tia Martin. “She’s been re­morse­ful since day one. In a mo­ment of weak­ness she went ahead and did this. She rec­og­nizes that she hurt peo­ple. She is gen­uinely re­morse­ful.”

Mul­laney ar­gued Por­tia Martin got in­volved in the scheme through her hus­band and that “he led her into that episode of crim­i­nal­ity.”

De­tec­tives al­leged the Martins used the eight vic­tims’ per­sonal in­for­ma­tion to fraud­u­lently ob­tain credit from the bank. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed the eight credit ac­counts opened by Cen­tra-spike were fraud­u­lent and Cen­tra-spike used the iden­ti­ties and per­sonal in­for­ma­tion of un­know­ing vic­tims to open credit ac­counts and charge the ac­counts for ser­vices not per­formed, ac­cord­ing to the ar­rest af­fi­davit.

The funds bor­rowed were ini­tially de­posited into Cen­tra-spike’s ac­count. How­ever, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed that some of the funds later were trans­ferred from the busi­ness ac­count to per­sonal ac­counts held by the Martins, ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan in March 2015, when an Up­per Dublin man con­tacted town­ship po­lice to re­port he was the vic­tim of iden­tity theft. The vic­tim told de­tec­tives he re­ceived cor­re­spon­dence from Syn­chrony Bank re­gard­ing a credit ac­count that was opened in his name with­out his au­tho­riza­tion, ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint filed by Up­per Dublin De­tec­tive Michael W. Gom­mer.

Work­ing with bank of­fi­cials, de­tec­tives even­tu­ally de­vel­oped the Martins as sus­pects in the fraud scheme. De­tec­tives did not the­o­rize on the cou­ple’s mo­tive in the crim­i­nal com­plaint.

How­ever, Laird ex­plained, “My client’s busi­ness ex­panded rapidly and it was his in­tent to ob­tain some money from the bank with the in­tent of re­pay­ing that money back in a very short pe­riod of time. Un­for­tu­nately, his plan did not go as it was laid out and there were some in­di­vid­u­als that were af­fected through­out the process.”

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