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Mustafa crime family member charged in St. Croix County

Marcus P. Coleman

Authorities allege a member of the reputed Mustafa crime family targeted a Hudson, Wis., store, where he allegedly made more than $12,000 in fraudulent cellphone purchases.

Charges filed last week against Marcus P. Coleman allege he followed the crime family's blueprint by using stolen identities to open accounts that were used to charge 14 iPhones.

He was charged Wednesday, May 17, in St. Croix County Circuit Court with two counts of theft by false representation and two counts of identity theft, all felonies. He is charged with another count of identity theft in a separate criminal complaint alleging a Nov. 28, 2016, incident in New Richmond.

Coleman's first court appearance in St. Croix County is set for June 22.

The Minneapolis man was one of several people named in a 2014 indictment against members of the Mustafa family organization, which was accused of trafficking stolen and fraudulently obtained mobile devices in the Twin Cities between 2006 and 2014. Coleman, according to the indictment, was one of several "runners" who was paid to acquire the phones through contract or subscription fraud.

Coleman pleaded guilty in August 2015 in U.S. District Court to one count of conspiracy to engage in interstate transportation of stolen goods and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He was on supervised federal release at the time of the alleged offenses in Hudson earlier this year.

The Hudson allegations were included in a list of alleged violations of his supervised release in a court document filed Friday, May 19, by a federal probation agent.

According to a St. Croix County criminal complaint:

Hudson police took a fraud complaint on Jan. 26 at the Sprint store, where workers said a man identifying himself as Marcus Coleman came to the store and claimed he was a member of "The Christensen Group." He charged eight iPhone 7s to the account for $6,960.

Workers said Coleman returned to the store on Jan. 25 and claimed to be part of "Cocomo Enterprises" and charged six of the same phones, valued at $5,220, to that account.

In both instances, the accounts had been set up a week in advance of the purchases.

Sprint later learned the accounts had been opened fraudulently.

Investigators learned earlier this month that owners of the two companies Coleman purported to represent had no knowledge of him and suspected they'd been victims of identity theft.

A check by investigators of Coleman's Facebook page revealed a Jan. 10 post of him holding five iPhone boxes. A post made later that month displayed a photo of an iPhone 7 box with the caption "brand new in the box 300 obo unlocked" — a message investigators interpreted as him having the phones for sale.

Investigators also checked the Facebook page for Coleman's girlfriend, who posted on Jan. 7, "If you tryna make $250 real quick today, inbox me asap." The investigators noted the post went live the same day Coleman got the eight iPhones from the Hudson Sprint store.

The investigation later revealed a New Richmond incident from December 2016 at the Verizon store there, where employees said a man identifying himself as "Marcus Phillip Colem" had fraudulently purchased seven iPhones under an account for Table 65 Bistro. A second attempt was made at opening a Verizon account using the restaurant's account by a man later identified by Verizon employees as Coleman.

In an interview with authorities, Coleman said he thought the Christensen Group purchase was legitimate since it shared the same last name as his cousin's girlfriend. He denied participating in the Verizon-related scams since he was prohibited from entering Verizon stores as part of his federal probation.

When confronted with information refuting his claims, Coleman contended that he was helping a woman accompanying him — a claim investigators said was debunked by surveillance video from the cellphone stores.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

(715) 426-1072
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