A continued gang enforcement effort netted 11 arrests today (Thursday), mostly associated with a large-scale identity theft fraud ring.
In June of this year — as part of an ongoing investigation spanning back to November 2009 — the Long Beach Police Department conducted a large arrest operation against the Baby Insane Crip gang in regards to a murder and multiple shootings.
“Part of the evidence during the investigation revealed that members of the gang, as well as some of their family members and associates, were involved in a large-scale fraud ring,” Chief Jim McDonnell said, noting his detectives continued to work on the case since then.
Today’s (Thursday’s) operation involved 200 officers, detectives and agents from local law enforcement, the U.S. Secret Service, the United State Postal Inspection Service and the IRS. There were 32 search warrants issued for locations in Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Harbor City, Van Nuys, Carson, Inglewood, Gardenia, Anaheim, Cerritos and Los Angeles.
“Investigators learned that the suspects were stealing personal identifying information to commit various financial crimes, including the filing of fraudulent tax returns,” McDonnell said.
There were 11 people arrested, ages 21-48, for charges of identity theft (5), having an outstanding warrant (3), being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm (2) and being in possession of stolen property and a stolen vehicle.
Officials said they have determined that tens of thousands of dollars have been lost by the federal government and several hundred thousand dollars from individuals due to attempted fraud — totaling about $1 million.
During the operation, there were eight children taken into protective custody. Officers and agents confiscated several thousand dollars in cash and tens of thousands of dollars in property including 10 guns (including an assault rifle and shotgun), dozens of major electronics (large plasma televisions, stereo equipment) and cars (including a $50,000 boat and trailer).
“It’s amazing how the ill gotten gains have been spent,” McDonnell said.
According to officials, often the suspects would obtain a name, social security number and date of birth through a variety of sources. Then the suspect would apply online for tax returns, send them through the USPS, and funnel that return through a casino, ATM or family member.
The IRS looks out for fraud, officials said, but they generally process the first tax return that comes in, which can be vulnerable to this type of fraud.
“Once considered a white collar crime, identity fraud along with other financial crimes are now becoming common practice among street gangs,” said Adrian Gonzalez, assistant inspector in charge of the United States Postal Inspection Service, Los Angeles Division.
McDonnell also said there were lessons to be learned from the operation for avoiding the pitfalls of identity theft.
“We’d like this operation to serve as another strong message to the gangs in the city of Long Beach and throughout the region, that we will not stand for the destruction that is brought to our communities, and we will do everything in our power to stop the violence and corruption that is being inflicted on our society,” he said. “Be extremely cautious whenever you are asked to give personal information, whether through computer, over the phone or in person. Closely monitor your bank accounts to make sure your information has not been compromised.”
Officials also lauded each other’s agencies for their ability to work together in order to perform such a large-scale operation.
“The fact that criminals are not bound by city limits or state lines, coupled with today’s tiny budgets and limited resources, only makes it more important that we work together,” Gonzalez said.