Visalia PD Dealing with Identity Theft Daily

November 25, 2008 9:44:33 PM PST
South Valley authorities have seen a rise in identity theft. Officers say one suspect stole hundreds of identities. Bogus checks worth thousands of dollars is part of the evidence Visalia police have collected in one of their latest identity theft cases. "It's becoming more and more of a problem I would say over the last year we've had over 100 cases that have involved identity theft," said Sgt. Steve Phillips.

Officers say they're dealing with identity theft cases nearly every single day. 21-year old Jaime Leon Zamora and his mother, Angelina Leon Gonzales were arrested this past weekend. Police say they stole identities of at least 600 victims. Officers say they ran their operation out of a motel room at this Days Inn on Noble Avenue using fake checks, and other people's bank account numbers from stolen mail. Neighbors of the suspects say they're shocked.

Jesse Ortega said, "That's messed up taking advantage of people like that it's not right."

Ortega was a victim of identity theft before. Now, he's protective of his mail.

"Yeah pretty much I'm usually out there when the mail gets there or my wife is," said Ortega.

Bridge officers say the best way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft is to protect your mail. Never leave mail in plain view in your car and shred any credit card applications you're not going to use.

On Tuesday morning, just hours before our interview, officers nabbed another person for identity theft when they were pulling him over for driving a stolen vehicle.

"As a result of the pursuit in catching the driver we found several stolen checks inside the vehicle from a recent burglary in Visalia," said Sgt. Phillips.

That person is also accused of having crystal methamphetamine in his car.

"A lot of times identity theft it seems to be drug related where the people who are doing identity theft are using narcotics especially methamphetamine," said Sgt. Phillips.

Identity theft is a felony charge. If a person's convicted of the crime they can spend at least a year in prison.

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