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US identity theft ring investigation to use Wynyard software

Wynyard Group's advanced crime analytics software will be used to help 92 US law enforcement agencies tackle a nationwide identity theft ring that's estimated to have stolen millions of dollars in at least 34 states.

The Marion County Sheriff's Office, in Florida, is leading the data collection and analysis of the Felony Lane Gang Task Force in the US. It will use software from NZX-listed Wynyard and Canadian CI Technologies' CrimeNtel in their investigation into the identity theft ring, which has been operating for more than 10 years. The contract will raise Wynyard's profile with a raft of US law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"For multiple agencies, this one is a pretty significant one with 92 law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, all working together on this problem," Wynyard chief executive Craig Richardson told BusinessDesk. "We've been getting quite a lot of attention from the US."

The Felony Lane Gang is estimated to have stolen tens of millions of dollars over the past decade, with successful teams thought to be making about US$30,000 a week by cashing stolen cheques at drive-through branches. Identity theft is the single biggest property crime in the US, creating losses of some US$24.7 billion in 2012, according to US Bureau of Justice figures.

Marion County Sheriff's Office intelligence analyst Jeff Hammer said the new technology is expected to speed up data processing, by allowing agencies across the US to draw patterns and links to try and identify and prosecute suspects in the ring.

Wynyard's Richardson said the company has a target of reducing the cost of an investigation by between 30 and 40 percent, leaving those freed up resources able to be deployed elsewhere.

Richardson says New Zealand's police, which uses Wynyard's software, is embracing new technologies to ease its budgetary pressures. For example, the the police are targeting $300 million in productivity gains through a 10-year contract with Vodafone New Zealand signed just over a year ago.

"Budget pressures forced them to re-imagine how to do things" and allowed them to move into crime prevention "rather than the bottom of the cliff," he said.

Wynyard built a pipeline of new contracts through last year and is focusing on attracting larger contracts. Earlier this month, it signed a $3.2 million deal with an unidentified national security bureau, providing services to fight organised crime and to counter terrorism.

The company was spun out of Jade Software and debuted on the NZX in 2013, raising $65 million in capital to fund its international growth plans. The crime analytics and risk assessment software is used by the London Metropolitan Police and the New Zealand and Australian police forces, global banks and corporations, and has been making inroads into the US market.

The shares last traded at 2.06, and dropped 27 percent in the past 12 months.