This home-renting identity thief was in a league of her own

There are lessons to be learned from the case of Alexia Devlin, who targeted more than 100 people.

EVERETT — She schemed her way into homes.

Alexia Devlin once told a couple she was trying to escape an abusive relationship. She said her name was Sarah and she needed a place to stay. The couple offered their empty condo rental in Mukilteo.

A locked closet was broken into during the initial hours of her stay in 2016. The computer inside, storing copies of tax returns, was gone. By the second day, several credit cards were opened in the property owners’ names.

They later received a call from the bank. A woman named Sarah had applied for a $25,000 business loan through their bank account.

More than 40 of the couple’s neighbors found their mailboxes had been broken into, as well.

Devlin, 37, led an identity-theft scam that targeted more than 100 people in Snohomish and King counties. She found victims using rental companies, such as Airbnb and Vacation Rental By Owner. She rented properties using someone else’s identity and then rifled through the houses to steal personal information.

Devlin was sentenced to 14 years in prison last month. The prison term was longer than state guidelines and lengthier than what had been requested by attorneys on both sides of the case.

Devlin’s boyfriend also has been charged in connection with some of those crimes. His trial is scheduled for March.

Jamie French, an Everett police detective, began investigating the couple in August 2016. She hadn’t seen a scheme like this before.

People still are wading through the mess Devlin left.

A 31-year-old homeowner couldn’t pay his mortgage after Devlin took checks from his mailbox. He now fields multiple calls a week from the bank, waiting for his payment.

He told a Snohomish County Superior Court judge last month that he “plays by the rules.” He starts his work day at 4 a.m. He has worked in his union for 11 years. He helps his neighbors.

Devlin didn’t play by the rules, he said.

A family’s home in Snohomish was broken into over Memorial Day weekend in 2016. Their backpacks and computers were missing. One of the laptops belonged to a girl who has learning difficulties, according to a statement written by the family. She used a program on her computer for her school assignments. She lost all of her work.

A bracelet belonging to another daughter was gone. She had brought it back from Honduras, where she visited and helped build houses. A girl who now lives in one of those homes made the bracelet as a gift.

Their credit card and business checks were taken. The family canceled the checks, but their financial information already had been sold. Within three weeks, people in multiple states wrote fraudulent checks.

French said many of those who were targeted now have trouble sleeping and concentrating at their jobs. They receive phone calls from collection agencies and take time off work to convince businesses that someone had stolen their identity.

The couple who welcomed Devlin into their condo in Mukilteo have since sold the property. Another woman sold her business.

A judge ordered Devlin to pay restitution to those people. The initial estimate was more than $79,700.

“The level of sophistication transcends anything you see in state court,” Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael Downes said at sentencing. “This behavior is almost in a league of its own.”

French suggested that people who rent out properties remove all personally identifiable information. She also recommended that people check their credit report several times a year, even if they don’t believe they have been targeted.

“I know Ms. Devlin’s sentence may not bring back the victims’ sense of security, their stolen belongings or the time and heartache they have gone through,” French said. “I hope this helps bring some closure or at least a little satisfaction.”

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins @heraldnet.com.

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