A West St. Paul man spent his 56th birthday in Hennepin County jail Thursday after being arrested this week on charges that he was "the boss" of a metrowide identity theft ring.
Donald Allen Ellis, arrested Wednesday by Hennepin County sheriff's detectives, has been charged with identity theft and racketeering in connection with a large-scale crime operation that allegedly involved credit card fraud, theft and counterfeit checks.
The charges emerged as he was out on bail on similar ID theft charges.
Ellis allegedly instructed several accomplices to break into vehicles and steal purses last year. The victims' stolen credit cards were used to buy gift cards and iPads. Ellis allegedly also had the victims' names printed on counterfeit checks.
There were at least eight victims in Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington, Dakota, Scott and Carver counties, as well as in Wisconsin.
"Identity theft is devastating for victims because it is extremely time-consuming to resolve the damage to their credit ... reputation," Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said in a prepared statement.
It isn't the first time Ellis has been accused of stealing.
In 2004, he was arrested in an investigation that described him as kingpin of a crime ring that stole cars, snatched purses and forged checks totaling more than $5 million over 10 years. He pleaded guilty to check forgery and theft by swindle and spent about two years behind bars.
Identity theft charges filed in 2010 and updated last July allege that Ellis was a leader of a group that broke into cars and stole purses in eight metro-area communities between October 2009 and February 2010.
Ellis' attorney, Ira Whitlock, said the new charges have made his client's case resemble a witch hunt.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495; Twitter: @stribnorfleet