Former Windstream worker accused of trafficking stolen identities
SALISBURY — The former Windstream employee accused of stealing customers’ account information and using it to buy goods is also accused of trafficking those identities.
Walter Darnell Austin, 45, is charged with trafficking stolen identities and multiple counts of identity theft. Warrants list the names of 15 Windstream customers plus another woman as victims of identity theft.
Austin, of 75 Brackenberry Circle, Mount Pleasant, turned himself in Wednesday after authorities issued warrants for his arrest.
Investigators said Austin used financial information stolen from customer accounts over more than a year to buy thousands of dollars in merchandise and had it delivered to vacant homes in Rowan and Cabarrus counties.
Austin is accused of stealing old files with Windstream customers’ information and used the information to open fraudulent accounts with online retail companies.
The records were taken from a Windstream retail store in Kannapolis, Windstream spokesman Scott Morris said. The records were paper documents believed to be from the mid- to late 1990s, before Windstream acquired CT Communications in 2007.
Austin quit his job after Rowan County Sheriff’s Office investigators and China Grove Police detectives staked out a home Monday and saw Austin pick up two packages that had been delivered by a commercial service.
Deputies stopped him as he ran to a nearby Windstream service van and tried to leave, the report said.