Fresno Police Caught ID Theft Ringleader

April 16, 2008 9:40:15 AM PDT
Fresno police have caught the woman they say is the ringleader of a large identity theft ring. 34 year old Aida Hernandez of Fresno is in the Fresno County Jail.She's facing 151 felony counts all related to identity theft. Investigators believe Hernandez obtained victims personal information by digging in the garbage, through car burglaries, and stealing mail. Police believe in a half years time, Hernandez hacked into 319 bank accounts. But, a recent shopping trip to Gottschalks in Fashion Fair Mall ended in handcuffs for Hernandez after Fresno police say she wrote and got away with passing 849 other counterfeit checks.

"As you can see in this case, literally hundreds of victims impacted by four people in our community," said Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

Police also arrested an accomplice 33 year old Erika Castillo. Investigators are still looking for Christopher Brown a 33 year old parolee and 22 year old Johnny Morales. In Hernandez' purse investigators found plenty of evidence to link her to ID theft throughout the Central Valley including four separate ID's, all with her picture, but different names. They also recovered 88 blank checks.

"The majority of the time the purchases would be made to then be returned to another location which is why I believe large chain stores were targeted because sometimes there's multiple stores in one town. But you can go to any town and return merchandise," said Fresno Police Detective Heather Ground.

Save Mart Supermarkets tipped off investigators, but soon after police got involved in the case-they realized other stores like Target, Kohl's, Mervyns, Home Depot, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Gottschalks also had counterfeit checks returned. JCPenney loss prevention officers received several of the bad checks believed to be written by Hernandez.

"It's several hundred dollars at least right now and of course it still may grow," said Javier Prado of JCPenney.

Fresno police believe 1000 people have been victims many of them are customers at Educational Employees Credit Union and Fresno County Federal Credit Union.


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