Todd Parker Neuwirth started fidgeting and gave evasive answers to the officer who pulled him over in the small southeast Texas town of Splendora during a traffic stop in Sept. 2017, according to authorities.
That officer found a digital scale with some methamphetamine residue on it when searching the vehicle, according to a news release from the Montgomery County District Attorney's office. But it was all the paperwork scattered throughout the car he was driving that earned Neuwirth a 75-year prison sentence.
It belonged to at least eight Hurricane Harvey victims from Houston, surrounding towns like Humble and Kingwood, and even one from North Carolina, according to the Montgomery County Courier. It included their blank checks, employment applications and credit cards and came from homes and businesses that had been destroyed as a result of the flooding during Hurricane Harvey.
KTRK reported that authorities later found stolen printers and laptops in Neuwirth's possession along with multiple drivers licenses and social security cards.
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Police believed then that Neuwirth rummaged through debris piles and went through abandoned homes and businesses gathering the documents, then used the stolen computer equipment to forge and print blank checks.
"[Criminals] feed off this," Sgt. Troy Teller told the station at the time of Neuwirth's arrest. "This is the time to take advantage of it. everybody's security is down. They're out of their homes. They're away from their property for numerous hours and days. They are what [criminals] look for."
Neuwirth's four-day trial ended on May 24, when a Montgomery County jury found him guilty of fraudulent possession of identifying information and tampering with a government document. Judge Patty McGinnis handed Neuwirth, 41, two concurrent 75-year prison sentences after hearing evidence of his previous criminal history, the release said.
The Houston Chronicle reported in 2013 that Neuwirth was wanted for a federal probation violation when he was arrested in the neighboring town of Cleveland after police there stumbled upon a previous identity theft operation in a hotel room booked in Neuwirth's name.
Court documents show that Neuwirth was convicted of fraud in that case in 2014.
The release from Montgomery County said Neuwirth had 12 felony convictions on his criminal record, including a trip to federal prison in 2010 for defrauding six banks in a check cashing scam worth $171,000, and a stint in state prison for a drug possession case out of Liberty County.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 25, 2017. Flooding in Houston and the surrounding area caused $125 billion in damage, amounting to 2017's costliest disaster in the U.S., according to the Texas Tribune.