Detectives arrest two in suspected identify theft operation
It all started with a tip from a grocery store.
An investigation soon led to a traffic stop of a suspected stolen vehicle.
And the case ended with the arrest of two women suspected of carrying out a crime that has become a scourge of the computer age:
In all, more than 100 victims throughout Orange County were identified in the alleged scam.
Fortunately, most of the stolen items were returned to their owners.
As Fullerton PD detectives this week recounted the bust, agency officials reminded the public to take precautions when it comes to protecting personal information to lower the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.
"Protecting your social security number, using strong passwords on your computer and smart phone, and checking your credit card and bank statements right away are just some steps people can take," Chief Dan Hughes said.
“Identity theft is a serious problem that can haunt victims for months if not years,” he added.
Detectives with the Fullerton PD Directed Enforcement Team made the arrests. The DET is a proactive, patrol-based investigative unit that tackles cases that are not practical for uniformed officers to handle.
The case began when loss-prevention officials at Albertson's notified the Fullerton PD that fraudulent gift cards were being produced by an unknown female resident of the city.
Detectives were able to identify the suspect as Cari Moore, 32, who was on probation in Orange and Riverside counties for theft- and forgery-related charges. Moore also had a rap sheet with similar charges dating back to 1999.
While staking out Moore’s home, detectives spotted two stolen vehicles from the Enterprise rental car agency. When detectives pulled over one of the stolen cars leaving Moore’s residence on March 21, they arrested a second suspect, Moore’s girlfriend, Teresa Young, 34, also of Fullerton.
A search of the car yielded thousands of documents including stolen mail, identification cards, social security cards and passports. Hundreds of fraudulent identification cards, fraudulent credit cards, checks and passports also were found, as well as numerous pieces of equipment used to produce these items including credit-card scanners, computer files with templates for every state’s ID cards, laminators and specialized printers.
Detectives then served a search warrant at A1 Self Storage in Fullerton and seized additional stolen mail, fraudulent credit cards, checks and identity-theft equipment.
The Orange County District Attorney filed 41 felony counts and four misdemeanor counts related to burglary, forgery, narcotics and identity theft against Young.
Moore was charged with 25 felony counts and two misdemeanor counts related to burglary, forgery, narcotics and identity theft.
The federal Postal Inspector is reviewing the case for possible multiple violations of mail theft.
“I commend the fine work of our detectives on the DET unit,” Hughes said.
“Identity theft is a scourge, and the public needs to always be on high alert when asked to provide sensitive information, and make sure such sensitive information is kept as private as possible.”