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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: identity theft

Alleged mail thieves jailed without bail

A federal prosecutor said she's “appalled” by the number of people who had their mail stolen in in a suspected regional theft ring and may seek aggravating circumstances against four suspects.

“This is an ongoing, every day thing,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Pam Byerly said. “This is their job.”

Dominque M. Ryan, 18; her sister, Candice J. Thompson, 22; and Thompson's boyfriend, Eric J. Peltier, Jr., 29,  are in federal custody without bail after their arrests Monday.

U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno denied requests by Ryan and Thompson's lawyers, Bevan Maxey and Jeffry Finer, to be released. Finer has appealed the decision and cites, among other reasons, the fact that the U.S. Probation Office recommended she be released to live with her father in Tacoma.

Ryan's boyfriend, Kyle K. Croson, 21, is at large. Peltier's lawyer, Jaime Hawk, had his bail hearing postponed until Tuesday. Peltier has a misdemeanor warrant in Pierce County.

The suspects face months to a couple of years in prison if convicted of stealing mail, which is a federal offense.

Ryan, who had methamphetamine and marijuana with her when she was arrested, has no criminal history and works at a call center. Thompson has convictions for driving while license suspended and failure to transfer car title.

The women have been deeply affected by the drug overdose death of their mother, according to court testimony. Lawyer Jeffry Finer said he's worried Thompson is “chasing her mom's history.”

Thompson's three-year-old daughter was in their apartment in 300 block of East Baldwin Avenue when law enforcement arrived Monday. The child is now in the custody of Child Protective Services. Finer said it's difficult to discuss that with Thompson. “Whenever we touch on that issue, she breaks down,” Finer told Imbrogno.

Investigators recovered about 1,000 pieces of mail stolen from hundreds of people in Eastern Washington and North Idaho in the apartment and in two cars Monday.

Peltier told police he and Thompson moved to Spokane from Tacoma about two months ago with their daughter to live with Ryan and Croson.

He, Thompson and Ryan cried in court on Thursday.

“I love you, too” Peltier said to Thompson as she was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

He then turned to two friends in the audience and, through sobs, denied the allegations.

“It wasn't us,” Peltier said. “It wasn't us.”

Heaps of stolen mail found in Spokane

About 1,000 pieces of mail stolen from hundreds of people in Eastern Washington and North Idaho were recovered in Spokane on Monday.

Police had been investigating the thefts since a woman reported seeing a white car with two men and two women stealing from mailboxes on May 24.

Spokane police Officer Glenn Bartlett reported contacting a suspicious vehicle that was circling a neighborhood on May 26. The occupants he contacted later emerged as suspects in the mail thefts when their names were attached to bank accounts where altered checks had been deposited.

Detectives with the Spokane Financial Crimes Task Force identified the suspect vehicle as a 1997 Dodge Intrepid belonging to Kyle Croson, 21. Police searched Croson's apartment in the 300 block of East Baldwin Avenue on Monday. Candice J. Thompson, 22, and her boyfriend, Eric J. Peltier, Jr., 29, were arrested.

Peltier told police he and Thompson moved to Spokane from Tacoma about two months ago with their three-year-old daughter to live with Thompson's sister, Dominque Ryan. Ryan is Croson's girlfriend.

Peltier said they started “mailboxing” about two weeks after arriving in Spokane. He said Croson and Ryan frequently “mailbox” but that he and Thompson hadn't done so recently because they were out of money for fuel. Investigators searched the apartment as well as the Dodge Intrepid and a Chevy Malibu, where they recovered the stolen mail.

Thomspon said they stole mail “hoping to find cash inside of graduation cards,” according to court documents.

Croson, Thompson, Peltier and Ryan are charged in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Man pleads guilty in bank fraud case

An Arizona man who helped a North Idaho woman commit bank fraud has pleaded guilty.

Charles Earl Baker, 32, faces up to 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years of probation when he's sentenced June 19 in U.S. District Court in Coeru d'Alene.

Baker pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit bank fraud for a scheme involving Michelle Ann Mason, who pleaded guilty earlier this month.

Baker met Mason in late 2010 and opened a bank account that he used to deposit counterfeit, altered or forged checks that had been stolen from mail.

Baker then withdrew the cash using ATMs. Mason admitted to organizing Baker and at least five others to steal mail in the Oldtown, Idaho, area. Mason is to be sentenced June 18.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Office, Kootenai County Sheriff's Department, Bonner County Sheriff's Office, and the U.S. Secret Service.

Woman guilty in Oldtown mail theft ring

A woman who led a mail theft ring in the Oldtown, Idaho, area pleaded guilty last week in Coeur d'Alene.

Michelle Ann Mason, 27, faces up to 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine and five years of probation when she's sentenced June 18 in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene. She also is to pay $37,790.39 restitution.

Co-defendant Charles Earl Baker is scheduled to begin trial March 27.

Mason admitted to organizing at least six people to steal mail in he Oldtown area. Her co-conspirators opened bank accounts, and Mason deposited counterfeit or forged checks that had been stolen from the mail, then withdraw cash from the accounts through ATMs.

Mason used the money to buy items and pay bills. Her victims included banks, merchants and the intended mail recipients.

Mason pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft Wednesday.

Con man admits swindling elderly aunt

Convicted bank swindler John Earl Petersen is pictured in 1997. (S-R archives)

A convicted con man already due to serve more than two years in federal prison has resolved a three-year-old identity theft case in Spokane County.

John Earl Petersen, 61, was sentenced Wednesday to 13 months in prison for swindling his elderly aunt out of her life savings.

Petersen, the key figure in the collapse of a Montana bank more than a decade ago, will serve the time concurrently with a 27-month federal sentence imposed last month for stealing nearly $170,000 from a brother and sister in 2006 after telling them they would receive $100 million in return.

Federal prosecutors said in 2008 that Petersen used more than $400,000 belonging to his 95-year-old aunt, Gunly Petersen, for personal use, including a lavish remodel at her home in the 1300 block of South Greene Street. He had moved her into a nursing facility and was to be overseeing her health and finances.

It's the latest for an admitted con man and frequent Las Vegas gambler who had a business office in Spokane when he was arrested in 1998, accused of masterminding the $10.5 million collapse of Montana Bank of Whitefish, Mont.

Petersen shocked federal authorities in December 2007 when he walked out of U.S. District Court in Spokane after reviewing paperwork indicating he would be taken into custody at the hearing.

He sped away in his Cadillac and was arrested five months later in Boulder, Colo., with a blond wig and books about changing identity.

Past coverage:

Feb. 1, 1998: Agent paints Petersen as loan-sharking mobster
  

Man wanted for stealing from grandfather

A Spokane man accused of stealing from his grandfather by forging his checks is wanted by Crime Stoppers.

Bryan Henry Morales, 32, was to begin trial this week on a leading organized crime charge for allegedly directing men to cash the forged checks, which cost his grandfather, John Camacho, more than $7,000, according to court documents. He also faces separate charges of forgery and delivery of a controlled substance

Morales never showed up for a pre-trial hearing, and a $10,000 warrant for his arrest was issued Jan. 31.

Crime Stoppers on Wednesday offered a reward for tips that lead to his arrest.

Tod Michael Ives, 49, is charged with nine counts of second-degree identity theft for allegedly cashing the checks. Thomas D. Plante, 28, faces 10 counts.

Morales, 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, last gave an address in the 1200 block of South Rotchford Drive in the Spokane Valley.

Anyone with information Morales' location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Davenport theft suspect convicted in La.

A man accused of stealing from the Davenport Hotel after being hired under a stolen identity has been sentenced in federal court in Louisiana for a similar scheme.

William Joseph Johnson Jr., 55, is to serve about five years in prison for charges related to a $77,000 fraud he perpetrated against a hotel chain based in Natchitoches, La., between October 2006 and January 2007.

He’s still wanted on a handful of felony charges in Spokane County for allegedly stealing from the Davenport after duping hotel administrators into hiring him as the financial controller.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Nov. 21, 2008: Man accused of ripping of Davenport Hotel

Man accused of leading organized crime

An alleged counterfeit check and identity theft ring has led to a leading organized crime charge against a 30-year-old Spokane man.

Kyle R. Aiken is one of 14 people facing charges in the case, which involved Aiken creating counterfeit checks using stolen bank account and personal identification information stolen during car prowlings by co-conspirators in Spokane County. The checks were cashed at stores throughout the county in August and early September, according to court documents.

Investigators believe Aiken, who lives in the 4000 block of North Cannon Street, directed at least six people to engage in forgery, theft and identify theft, which led prosecutors to charge him with lading organized crime.

The charge can carry a sentence of about 10 years.

Also facing charges are Donnelle C. Velasquez, 41, and her juvenile son; Alicia M. Rumburg, 22; Samuel J. Aldrich, 28; Alexander R. Jarman, 19; Sarah E. Perrenaud, 24; Stephanie R. Kutulas, 32; Charles W.B. Walrath, 26; Ronda M. Mason, 28; Tyler C. Berens, 19; Chelsea R. Barnes, 23; Kirk P. Robinson, 21; and Kristina M. Centorbi, 23.

Two search warrants were executed during the investigation, one by the Spokane Police Department’s Targeted Crimes Unit and Patrol Anti-Crime Team (PACT), and one conducted by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Financial Crimes Task Force.
  

Tips sought on pawn shop theft

Spokane Valley police investigating a large theft and burglary ring are trying to identify a man who pawned stolen property in the city of Spokane. 

The man pictured on surveillance video at Pawn One is believed to have concealed a laptop computer under his shirt and given it to an associate who pawned it at Double Eagle Pawn across the street. 

Two of three associates have not been located. One associate was interviewed in jail but provided only a first name, which Sgt. Dave Reagan described as “questionable.” 

“We would appreciate the public's help in identifying this man,” Reagan said in a news release. “This investigation is part of a larger Spokane Valley Police investigation into a ring of suspects involved in vehicle prowling, identity theft, burglaries and trafficking in stolen property.”

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Reward for tips on check fraud suspect

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of a repeat offender suspected in an extensive check forgery ring.

Tami Jo Raider, alias Tami Hearn, 49, was identified as a suspect after purchasing two couches at Runge Furniture in Coeur d'Alene with a check stolen from a Pend Oreille County home. Several other checks had been stolen and cashed at business in Spokane County and other areas of Washington and in Idaho, according to court documents.

The salesman at the furniture store wrote down the license plate to her 1986 Ford truck, which deputies searched last week after a deputy stopped a man who was driving it on Sept. 9.

Deputies believe Raider cashed at least 17 stolen checks in April and May. Employees at various stores identified Raider as the woman who passed the check, according to court documents.

Charges have not been filed, but Spokane County sheriff's Sgt. Dave Reagan said Deputy Brian Hirzel has probable cause to arrest Raider for 17 counts of identity theft and 17 counts of forgery.

She's also wanted for misdemeanor third-degree theft in an unrelated case. Anyone with tips on her location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online

Several mail thefts reported in Valley

Here's a news release from Spokane Valley police Sgt. Dave Reagan:

Numerous Spokane Valley residents living in the area of 14300 to 14600 East Sixth reported their mail being stolen from street-side rural mailboxes between Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon.

Residents found their mail opened and tossed on the ground along the roadway. It was unknown if the thief found anything of value to steal, but identity thieves frequently target mail to obtain personal financial information which they then use to victimize the intended mail recipient.

Outgoing personal checks provide thieves with the names, addresses and account numbers of checking account holders, and incoming mail can provide pre-approved loan applications which can be activated with a simple signature.

Although financial institutions usually cover the victim’s monetary loss, it can take months or years to fix the victim’s credit history damaged by the suspect’s thefts.

Law enforcement professionals encourage all area residents to purchase a locking roadside mailbox to receive incoming mail on rural routes, or to rent a mailbox at the nearest post office.

Outgoing mail containing checks or cash should always be deposited in the larger blue U.S. Postal Service mailboxes located at shopping malls, grocery stores or in front of post office annexes.

Woman with $26k in bra pleads guilty

A woman who had $26,000 in her bra when booked into the Spokane County Jail is to repay another $7,500 after pleading guilty to first-degree theft.

Lukeisha A. Harris, 25, was credited for three days already served in jail after her arrest in March 2010.

The Seattle-area resident was accused with Corey B. Jones, Charles H. Kendrick and Elicionne L. Washington of stealing thousands of dollars from Spokane banks.

The three were arrested at the North Pointe branch of Chase Bank after employees at the Washington Trust Bank, 438 E. Hastings Road, reported a “heavyset” woman in black clothes and pink shoes had tried to get money with a stolen credit card.

Harris matched the bank employee’s description of the culprit - she’s 6-feet tall and 400 pounds. Police found the cash stash, along with bank receipts, in Harris' bra during booking at the jail.

The Associated Press called it “a fraud bust, indeed” in a short story that quickly went viral and really just made other reporters wish they had thought of that.

A detailed description of the fraud is available here.


  

‘Nemesis’ of property owners sentenced

A serial burglar who fled Spokane County District Court last April was sentenced recently to just under six years in prison.

Cole T. Monson, 37, described by law enforcement as the “nemesis” of property owners, pleaded guilty to 21 felonies for a crime spree that ended last March. A Spokane County Sheriff's raid related to the crime spree netted so much stolen property that detectives used a moving truck to transport the items.

According to court documents, Monson admitted the burglaries to police and said he “wrote the book on pursuits with the police.”

Monson told police after a March 13 chase that “he was so high at the time that all he could do was focus on not getting caught and not getting killed in a crash,” documents say.

Monson posted bond after his arrest but returned to jail the next month after fleeing a courtroom and falling outside the Public Safety Building. A judge had revoked his bond for a driving while suspended charge.

Monson was sentenced to 68 months in prison and ordered to pay $54,259 restitution after pleading guilty Friday to second-degree theft, second-degree possession of stolen property, second-degree identity theft, two counts of third-degree assault, second-degree trafficking in stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, theft of a motor vehicle and 12 counts of second-degree burglary.

Ex-car dealer accused of identity theft

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that lead to the arrest of an ex-car salesman accused of ripping off his former place of employment.

Jeremy M. Frechette, 37, was to buy a 1999 Dodge Durango from TCS Auto Wholesale, 2915 E. Sprague Ave., for $2,985, but employees say he only made two $300 payments.

Police believe Frechette, who worked as a sales manager, forged a dealership employee's signature and sold the Durango to a woman for $1,000 last March.

Prosecutors filed charges of second-degree identity theft and making false statement on certificate of ownership on Feb. 2.

A $20,000 warrant was issued for Frechette's arrest after he didn't show up for an arraignment on Feb. 16.

Frechette, 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, last gave ha home address in the 7900 block of East Valleyway Avenue in Spokane Valley.

Anyone with information on his current location is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online.

Meth-addicted mail thieves sentenced

Two Spokane women who stole mail to help fuel their methamphetamine addictions are to repay nearly $50,000 and spend about four years in federal prison.

Jacquelyn A. Crawford, 40, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Edward Shea to 53 months in prison after pleading guilty in October to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Charlene M. Haggard, 43, received 48 months for the same charges.

Both will be on probation for three years and are prohibited from accruing debt, opening checking accounts or obtaining bank cards without a probation officer's approval. They also are to repay nearly $47,375.16 for counterfeit checks they passed at area businesses.

Haggard and Crawford gathered materials for fake checks by ransacking rural mail boxes and prowling cars from February until April, when investigators searched Haggard's home at 5904 N. Regal St. and Crawford's room at the Apple Tree Inn, 9508 N. Division Street.

Crawford said she was “kind of relieved” when she was taken into custody, investigators said.

“She just began injecting methamphetamine, so in a way she was thankful she was caught,” Spokane County Sheriff's Office Detective Dean Meyer said in May. Crawford, a mother of three, completed in-patient rehabilitation and was allowed to stay with her mother in Spanaway pending sentencing. Haggard remains in the Spokane County Jail awaiting transport to prison.

Unpaid bar tab leads to ID theft arrest

An unpaid bar tab led to a woman's arrest on identity theft charges in Spokane Valley late Saturday.

A man and woman left the Corner Club Bar, 2208 N. Park Road, with a $117 bar tab after their debit card was declined but said they were going to their nearby motel room to get cash.

When they didn't return, a bar employee gave the declined debit card to Spokane Valley police Officer Justin Elliot, who determined it was stolen.

Employees at the nearby Red Top Motel said the woman named on the stolen card had rented a room there, so Elliot and  Officers Dale Wells and David Lawhorn  went to the room “and contacted an intoxicated Kathryn Elizabeth Reed,” police said.

Reed, 24, first claimed to be the woman named on the card. She invited police to retrieve her medical marijuana card from her purse when police spotted pot on the nightstand.

Police didn't find the card, but they did find identification belonging to Reed, as well as financial information and mail from five other people, according to a news release. Each person lives in the area of 11800 East Maxwell Avenue, where the declined debit card was reported stolen in a car prowling Feb. 18.

Reed was booked into jail on a felony count of second-degree identity theft and misdemeanor counts of third-degree theft (for the bar tab) and possession of marijuana. 

Phone scam targets jury duty absconders

A nationwide identity theft scam is targeting citizens who may have neglected to fulfill their civic duties.

The Grant County Sheriff's Office is warning of a cam that involves a caller telling citizens a warrant has been issued for the their arrest because they failed to respond to a jury duty summons.

The caller requests Social Security numbers and birth dates to verify information.

“Give out your Social Security number and birth date, and bingo, your identity was just stolen,” Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones said in a prepared statement.  “When in doubt, don’t reveal your personal information.”

Authorities called the scam “particularly insidious” because it uses intimidation by people pretending they are with the court system.

The fraud has not been reported in Grant County but has surfaced in at least 11 states, including Arizona.

The FBI and the federal court system are also warning about the scam.

Man wanted for leading organized crime

A suspected methamphetamine dealer who investigators say equipped his Spokane Valley home with surveillance video and a tripwire while orchestrating an identity theft scheme is wanted by police.

 Detectives spent months building a case against Ronald R. Foreman, (left) who left jail on $40,000 bond after a SWAT team raid at his home on 21st Avenue off Evergreen Road last March.

Crime Stoppers this week issued a reward for tips that lead to his capture on a new charge of leading organized crime in a case that depends on testimony from convicted criminals, including a woman who identified herself as the ex-girlfriend of Foreman and his wife.

Foreman faces about 10 to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Read my full story here.

Past coverage:

March 5: Massive check fraud ring uncovered in Valley

The same Valley property crime unit that investigated Foreman investigated another major stolen check ring that led to leading organized crime charges against two women.

Kimberly L. Fawver, 37, (right) and Krstina L. Fricke, 41, are accused of directing at least seven people to commit identity theft and check fraud in a drug-fueled scheme that victimized dozens of people, according to police.

Both women also face a slew of burglary and identity theft charges.

Other defendants in the case include Allen S. Easley, who was sentenced to 100 months in prison in December. He had been arrested at pawn shop in May with Fawver's daughter.

The leading organized crime charge has been filed a number of times in Spokane County Since its inception in 2001.

Read about a woman sentenced to 12 years here.

Men admit to stealing dead people’s IDs

Two Spokane men who used the names of dead people to create driver’s licenses and pass bad checks are headed to federal prison.

Alphonso Guster, 46, and Vladimir A. Bibas, 25, were arrested in December after passing checks at Walmart in Moscow, Idaho. The men had about 25 fraudulent driver’s licenses they were using to pass checks at area businesses, according to court documents. Prosecutors say they bought merchandise with the checks, then returned the items for cash refunds.

The men faced felony forgery charges in Nez Perce County, but those charges were dismissed after a federal grand jury indicted them in February 2010.

Guster was sentenced Monday to 39 months in prison and five years probation after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in August.

Bibas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud in August and was sentenced Oct. 25 to six months in prison and two years of probation. Both men are to pay $6,628.11 in restitution.

Women guilty in mail, identity theft scam

Two Spokane women who stole mail to perpetuate an identity theft scheme aimed at fueling a methamphetamine addiction pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court.

Jacquelyn A. Crawford, 40, and Charlene M. Haggard, 43, pilfered bank account numbers and used stolen driver's licenses to manufacture and pass more than 100 counterfeit checks that bilked Spokane area businesses of about $40,000.

The two ransacked rural mail boxes and prowled cars from February until April, when investigators searched Haggard's home at 5904 N. Regal St. and Crawford's room at the Apple Tree Inn, 9508 N. Division Street. Crawford said she was “kind of relieved” when she was taken into custody, investigators said.

“She just began injecting methamphetamine, so in a way she was thankful she was caught,” Spokane County Sheriff's Office Detective Dean Meyer said in May.

Crawford and Haggard pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 17; they're incarcerated at the Spokane County Jail. Their plea agreements call for each to serve prison time, pay restitution to their victims and forfeit criminal proceeds, including property obtained with counterfeit checks.

The U.S Postal Service offers these tips to protect mail:

•Use the letter slots at your post office to mail letters, or give them to a letter carrier.

•Pick up your mail promptly after delivery. Don’t leave it in your mailbox overnight. •Don’t send cash in the mail.

•Ask your bank for checks that can’t be altered.

•Tell your post office when you’ll be out of town, so they can hold your mail until you return.

Report mail theft here.

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