Los Angeles: A multi-agency task force, led by the Los Angeles Police Department arrested 22 suspects during pre-dawn raids on an identity theft ring responsible for millions of dollars in fraudulent criminal activity.
The arrests made on March 7, 2006, were part of a joint warrant operation conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Personnel from the Southern California Identity Theft Task Force, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, Ventura County District Attorney’s Office Task Force, U.S. Secret Service and California State Parole took part in the five-County warrant service. Torrance Police Department, Oceanside Police Department, U.S. Postal Service, Bank of America, and several local financial institutions provided additional investigative support. The arrest warrants were for fraud and counterfeiting.
“Identity theft is the most challenging crime facing law enforcement today,” said Lieutenant Rick Angelos of LAPD’s Harbor Police Station. “Everyone you talk to has been a victim or knows of a victim of identity theft. The tentacles of these crime rings can spread across the country very quickly.”
The arrests came as the culmination of a 7-month investigation that began when a single counterfeit check was passed at a bank in San Pedro. Harbor Division Investigators uncovered the upper echelon of a far-reaching organized-crime enterprise, one engaged in identity theft, grand theft, counterfeiting, fraud, forgery, and money laundering. The fraud ring operated in the Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura and San Diego counties, with victims as far away as Florida.
Detectives seized a large quantity of evidence, including computer equipment, identity profiles of victims, counterfeit checks, and records of extensive wire and real estate fraud. They also seized 10 weapons: 3 assault rifles, 1 shotgun and 6 handguns. An estimated two gallons of PCP and a small amount of marijuana were also seized.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office filed 97 felony charges against 20 individuals. The counts include Conspiracy, Identity Theft, False Financial Statement, and Receiving Stolen Property.