Information we were getting that at least one mail theft ring was at work in Lamorinda was borne out by the recent news that Lafayette police were able to break up one such group operating from a room at the Lafayette Park Hotel.
Police said the case came together on July 2 when officers were dispatched to the hotel in answer to a report of a stolen car on the premises. Police confirmed that the car, an SUV, was a rental car leased with a fraudulent credit card.
A search of the car turned up several items recently purchased at local retailers along with numerous credit cards – all with different names on them.
Officers determined that at least two people associated with the car had checked in to the hotel, but could not pinpoint which room they were using. Investigators lingered, hoping to catch sight of the pair, when hotel security advised them they had spotted a third suspect associated with the group elsewhere on the grounds.
Police followed that person to a room in the hotel and determined that it had been booked by the people allegedly seen leaving the stolen rental car. Officers were able to intercept two of the three suspects as they were attempting the leave the hotel, detained another in the area but were not able to catch a fourth suspect who eluded capture by escaping out a fourth floor window.
Officers searching the room allegedly found equipment used to create fraudulent credit cards, with machines on hand to emboss new numbers on credit cards, re-encode the electronic strip to the rear of credit cards. Dozens of altered credit cards were also allegedly recovered at the scene.
Police Chief Eric Christensen said his investigators have been able to link the group to several identity cases from the Lamorinda area. Investigators continue their review of computers and documents collected at the scene.
Investigators told NEWS24-680 that the group apparently purchased a large number of iPhones with their bogus cards, apparently for quick resale to a receptive market.
While it is not yet clear how the suspects obtained personal information from individuals, the suspects were found in the possession of computer records bearing the names, addresses, drivers’ license numbers, employer names, social security numbers, telephone numbers, and dates of birth of several people. They were also allegedly found in the possession of articles of mail belonging to others, Christensen said.
Two suspects, Joshua Simms, 43, originally from Fresno, and Ronette Torres, 42, of Fresno, were booked at county jail. One person, whose name was not given, was released at the scene. The fourth person who eluded capture has not yet been identified.