More Than 20 Arrested For Identity Theft - News, Weather & Sports

More Than 20 Arrested For Identity Theft

(FRANKFORT, Ky., February 3rd, 2003, 1:30 p.m.) -- Kentucky law enforcement officials have arrested 22 people as part of a four-month undercover sting investigation into an identity theft ring, authorities said Monday.

As part of the scam, which operated in parts of Boone County and the Lexington area, the suspects stole peoples' identities to make counterfeit social security cards, drivers licenses, birth certificates and immigration cards, Kentucky Attorney General Ben Chandler said.

"This, we think, is the largest sting operation on identity theft that has ever been operated in Kentucky," Chandler said.

The alleged identity counterfeiting ring allegedly stole private information, such as social security numbers and credit card information and then used that information to establish separate identities, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Police Department Sgt. Pat Murray said.

They then sold bogus IDs on the street for up to $400, Murray said. They are now facing state and federal felony charges ranging from identity theft to drug possession.

Murray said authorities also found phony Mexican drivers licenses and birth certificates, California and Utah state IDs, Ohio drivers licenses, resident alien cards and federal employment cards.

Of the people charged, 21 men are citizens of Mexico or other South American countries, Murray said. They are also being detained by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, he said.

Police made seven arrests in Boone County on charges ranging from identity theft to criminal possession of a forged instrument, Murray said. In the Lexington area, authorities arrested 15 people on similar charges.

Chandler said people should be careful with their private information. He said people should shred personal documents and be wary of who handles their credit card information.

"These criminals often operate from a distance -- they use the internet, they use the telephone and they gather information that they need to establish bogus credit accounts," Chandler said. "By the time the victim is aware of what's happening, the criminal is long gone."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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