Elderly Identity Theft in Visalia

July 17, 2009 8:09:25 PM PDT
Visalia Police are used to handling identity theft cases, but they consider this latest case especially cruel because the victims are so vulnerable.Investigators said Ratoni Brown and Paul Lopez stole the identities from at least eight patients at the Kaweah Manor Convalescent Home.

The victim's ages range from 60 to over ninety years old, and some were even recently deceased.

Lt. Steve Puder, Visalia Police Dept. Said: "You try through this profession not to get personally involved but crimes such as these do affect you a little bit".

On Thursday Brown and Lopez were arrested on roughly 20 counts each of identity theft and burglary.

Police said Brown, a former intern at the convalescent home, had stolen social security numbers, birthdates and other information by accessing their files.

"The victims obviously in this case are helpless they're confined in a hospital", said Lt. Steve Puder

Brown and Lopez lived together in an apartment on north Divisadero Avenue where neighbors said they kept to themselves.

When Police arrived at the apartment complex to serve a search warrant and arrest the suspects, one of them, Paul Lopez, jumped from a two story balcony to try and escape.

Officers found him several miles away. Officials from Magnolia Health Corporation which runs Kaweah Manor said in a statement: "We are very saddened by this unfortunate incident and will assist Law Enforcement Agencies, in any way we can, to help assure this person is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Magnolia Health said all their employees undergo an in-depth background check and that Ratoni Brown worked at the home as an intern through a third party agency.

Investigators said Brown and Lopez purchased more than $10,000 dollars worth of merchandise online and at local stores; officers even intercepted a purchase made using one of the victim's identities when they served the search warrant at their apartment.

Lt. Steve Puder, Visalia Police Dept said, "A delivery person showed up delivering $7000 worth of jewelry that was obtained through identity theft".

At the time Ratoni Brown interned here at the convalescent home, she was facing charges from a December identity theft case.

Both suspects are expected to be arraigned on Monday.

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