BENICIA (KPIX 5) — Police in Benicia have arrested three people believed to be the leaders of an identity theft ring. Authorities credit a hotel housekeeper in breaking the case.
According to police, a housekeeper at the Best Western hotel found stacks of stolen credit cards, along with equipment used to steal identities. Items included laptop computers, a high quality printer, credit card readers, and correction fluid.
“You know, I don’t know how they were using their whiteout. But from all the items that I observed they appeared very sophisticated, high tech in the manner that they were trying to wash the checks and obviously reissue them to fraudulent people,” said Lieutenant Frank Hartig of the Benicia Police Department.
Management at Best Western locked the stuff away. Police said the criminals kept going back to the hotel’s front desk for several days, trying to retrieve their stuff. Each time, the staff refused because they did not have the proper ID.
“About a week later, we get a call from the hotel staff saying that one of the involved parties from the previous week had responded back to the hotel in an attempt to collect the property we had taken from the hotel room,” Hartig said. “They were able to surreptitiously call the police department, we responded, and that’s when it started to unravel.”
The investigation led police to a Holiday Inn Express hotel three miles away, where they believe more members of the ring were working.
Police arrested 26-year-old Martisha Munoz, who also happened to be wanted to felony theft and robbery warrants, 30-year-old Melinda Collins and 41-year-old Keshan Branch. According to authorities, Branch is a parolee who is also accused of kicking a police officer during his arrest.
In May, police arrested a woman at one of those hotels, also for identity theft. It is unclear if the two cases are related.
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