The root of a large bust that netted the arrests of eight people involved in identity theft goes deeper than the mail the suspects were accused of stealing, Scottsdale police are warning.
Police investigators determined those who were arrested inside a downtown Scottsdale hotel room last month are methamphetamine users and were stealing identities to help subsidize their habit.
“The relationship between methamphetamine use and mail and identity theft is well known to law enforcement,” assistant police chief John Cocca said in a department-issued statement. “The safety and identity of our residents are paramount and we are working with our neighboring communities to promote more awareness of this type of crime.”
Police said some members of the group were operating from a room at Homestead Suites, 3560 N. Marshall Way.
They stole mail to obtain private information so they could write phony checks for quick cash, police said.
Two of those arrested Aug. 19 — Adam K. See, 24, and his girlfriend, Vanessa Ann Goss, 26, both of Gilbert — have each been charged with one count of aggravated identity theft in connection to the ID thefts of five or more people, police said.
Goss has prior felony convictions for forgery, unlawful means of transport, credit card theft and false reporting to law enforcement, according to court records.
See was keeping stolen mail in a safe inside a room at the Homestead Suites, where he and Goss were staying, according to police.
Police said Goss told them she purchased stock paper so the couple could manufacture the checks and use bank account numbers from the mail they stole.
Formal charges have not been filed against the other six people, according to information from the Maricopa County Superior Court.
Arrested on suspicion of identity theft and drug-related offenses are Percilla Hill, 18, Herbert Barnes, 50, Brian Boccieri, 42, Joel Dube, 35, Lisa Wilson, 34, and Janet Lee, 36.
Before serving a search warrant in the hotel room, police arrested Hill and Barnes after they observed suspicious activity in a church parking lot at 7025 E. Osborn Road.
When officers tried to detain members of the group, some of them ran and discarded bags of mail stolen from residences along the 3300 block of North 70th Street where cluster mailboxes had been broken into, according to police.
Officials from the U.S. Postal Service also are assisting the investigation and determined that there were at least two victims of identity theft, police said.
Some safeguards for identity theft:
• Avoid sending outgoing mail through residential cluster or individual mail boxes by sending it through a post office branch
• Remove all mail on a daily basis from cluster mail boxes
• Avoid carrying a Social Security card in a wallet or purse
• While away from home for extended periods of time, secure Social Security cards, birth certificates and passports in a safe or safe deposit box unless documents are needed for travel