A marijuana-growing operation led police to an apparent bootleg porn business and launched an investigation into possible identity theft after the suspect told police he’d gotten employee files and credit card information from a local pizza place.
Police arrested Erik J. McMahon, 31, and Brendan J. Ward, 35, on Oct. 16 on suspicion of manufacturing a controlled substance. More charges and other arrests are expected, according to police.
More than 300 plants were seized from three homes owned by McMahon on the Five Mile Prairie. At one Birch Court home, police found between 750 and 1,000 pornographic DVDs, along with several DVD burners.
Police also found five receipts with credit card numbers used at a Spokane Pizza Pipeline in late 2005 and early 2006, as well as 50 to 75 employee files and completed job applications. Pizza Pipeline owner Mike Kight said McMahon worked at the restaurant for about three years beginning about a decade ago.
At least one of the employee files, which contained Social Security numbers, was used in an identity theft, but police say McMahon didn’t do much else with the information.
“Although this guy certainly had the potential to do an incredible amount of identify theft, it doesn’t appear that that was actually exploited,” said Detective Bryan Tafoya.
Though McMahon told police he’d bought the files from a friend who worked at the store, Tafoya said police haven’t determined whether that’s true.
Police will work with Pizza Pipeline to match the credit card numbers with customers’ names. But if one had been used fraudulently, the owner would probably know by now, Tafoya said.
Police started watching McMahon in August 2007 after a neighbor complained about suspicious activity at the house, 8511 N. Austin Road. They monitored power bills for increases consistent with a grow operation. On Thursday, police raided McMahon’s homes – the Austin Road and Birch Court homes and one on Cedar Road – and found marijuana at all three.
McMahon told police he makes about $1,500 a month selling the DVDs online, according to a search warrant.
McMahon was released Friday from the Spokane County Jail, and Ward was released Saturday. Neither could be reached for comment.
The bootlegged pornography and ID theft investigations are in their early stages.
“This is not something that’s gong to be resolved in the next couple of days,” Tafoya said.