Seven of eight people have been arrested for their involvement in an identification (ID) theft ring that reached nine counties and victimized 26 merchants and 14 individual people. “Unfortunately, …
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Keep PIN numbers separate from debit cards at all times. Always conceal your credit or debit card numbers and PINs. Be aware that thieves standing near you can use cell phone cameras to take pictures of your credit card numbers and they can watch you enter PIN numbers.
OPT OUT of marketing mailings, unsolicited credit card offers and convenience checks. Call 1-888-567-8688 to OPT OUT.
Shred all paper documents, including bank statements and credit card receipts, that contain personal or financial information.
Never mail payments by leaving letters in your mailbox for the postal service to pick up. Instead, go to the post office and take them inside. For online purchases, consider using PayPal or another way to disguise your actual credit card numbers.
Legitimate companies will never contact you by telephone or email asking for your account numbers or other personal or financial identifying information. Do not reveal any of this information if you didn’t initiate the telephone call or email.
Do not store personal or financial information on your personal computer. Regardless of the quality of your encryption program and firewall, hackers may still be able to access your information. Make sure you’re using a secure website, browser and/or internet connection before you enter personal information for an online transaction.
If you think you are a victim of ID theft, it is recommended to file a report with your local law enforcement agency in addition to calling the fraud hotline at 303-271-6980. People should also call any one of the following three credit reporting agencies — the one you call will notify the other two — and request to place a FRAUD ALERT on your account.
Trans Union 800-680-7289
Information provided by Pete Weir, District Attorney for the First Judicial District, Jefferson and Gilpin counties
Seven of eight people have been arrested for their involvement in an identification (ID) theft ring that reached nine counties and victimized 26 merchants and 14 individual people.
“Unfortunately, ID theft is very common,” said Pam Russell, the communications director for the First Judicial District Attorney. “We hope that (this) investigation, arrest and prosecution will help serve as a deterrent to others who might consider this illegal activity.”
The Jefferson County grand jury returned a 68-count indictment on Aug. 21 that included charges of ID theft, theft, conspiracy to commit theft, forgery, criminal impersonation, false information to a pawnbroker, aggravated motor vehicle theft and attempted theft. The defendants will each be charged according to their alleged participation in the crime ring.
Four men and four women are named in the indictment. They are Michael John Mancuso, III, 28; Jacob Wyatt Westfall, 20; Matthew Paul Lane, 42; Dwone Daunte Extor, 22; Texie Shannon Lane, 35; Chelsea Juanita Dix, 24; Kristina Julie Babe, 40; and Faith Marie Knight, 26.
Mancuso is also charged with violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act for engaging in a pattern of racketeering, which is obtaining money by way of an illegal enterprise.
All but Knight are in the custody of law enforcement. An arrest warrant has been issued for her.
The indictment cites that the crimes occurred between December 2017 and April 2018.The First Judicial District Attorney’s Office says the defendants illegally obtained financial and personal information of real people and used it to purchase goods and services. Most of the credit card information they used was from Chase VISA credit cards, although it is unknown how the defendants gained access to the information — name, address, credit card number, security code and expiration date — on the VISA cards. Most of the victims are Colorado residents.
“Often, a member of the enterprise would contact a business by telephone and tell them they wanted to purchase an item for a relative. They would then provide the credit card information over the phone. Another member of the group would pick up the pre-paid item. They would then sell the items to pawn shops or second-hand stores. Members would be paid or promised a fee for each item they sold,” according to the press release from the DA’s office.
Some of the merchandise mentioned in the indictment includes new bicycles, jewelry, clothing, motor vehicles, archery equipment, gift cards, mountain cabin rental and musical instruments.
The indictment states a there is a transaction total of over $20,000.
The businesses and pawn shops where transactions took place are located primarily in Jefferson County, but also across the metro area — Adams, Arapahoe, Denver and Broomfield counties — in addition to Boulder, Clear Creek, El Paso and Logan counties.
The suspects involved in these incidents were caught, but that isn’t always the outcome in ID theft cases, Russell said.
ID thieves use a variety of approaches, she said — everything from stealing mail from mailboxes to the IRS Imposter scam. With the latter, Russell explained, most often, a scammer pretends to be an IRS official and frightens/threatens people into sending money. Or, they demand or extort your information which they in turn use to steal your identity. Scams like these generally originate outside the US, Russell said, making apprehension impossible.
“We must remain vigilant. Considering the range of ID theft scams and schemes, often ID thieves are not caught,” Russell said. “We hope to educate consumers about the best ways to protect themselves from becoming victims. Education and public awareness are our best tools.”
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