Mail fraud case highlights the risk of identity theft

Mail fraud case highlights the risk of identity theft

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The Desert Sun Editorial Board
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The massive mail fraud case brought against a Rancho Mirage woman and a Cathedral City man serves as a reminder that identity theft is a serious threat nowadays.

And it’s getting worse.

Tracy Lynn Cross, 39, and Joe Anthony Loera, 38, are charged with several counts of burglary, forgery, manufacturing and selling government IDs, and possession of a controlled substance. Held in the Indio jail, Loera is scheduled enter pleas today and Cross should do so on Friday.

You may be cautious enough to shred your discarded documents, but these two are accused of taping shredded mail back together. When deputies obtained a search warrant and went through their homes, they found laminating machines, printers, fake IDs and computers with software to reproduce checks. They’ve been convicted of similar felonies as far back as 1999.

Investigators believe they would copy names, account and routing numbers from legitimate checks and print their own checks.

The investigation began with a $5.89 check from an Indian Wells resident to the Gas Co. It was apparently intercepted, modified and cashed for $1,200.

The couple is accused of simply grabbing mail out of unlocked mailboxes. Police have identified at least 200 victims, many in the Coachella Valley and others from all over the state.

The National Crime Victimization Survey released in November by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics shows the number of identity theft victims in the U.S. increased 25 percent from 2005 to 2010, when an estimated 8.6 million Americans were victimized.

“Financial crimes are skyrocketing,” said Deputy Sean Patrick of the Palm Desert station. “It’s a lot easier to do financial crime than to rob people.”

The scope of this fraud was so big, investigators limited evidence gathering to October through December so prosecutors could move forward. But the case goes to 2008 and there are likely hundreds more victims.

While The Desert Sun applauds the good police work and understands the limitations of the force, this hardly seems fair to the other victims. They all deserve justice.

Also, the case shows the flaw in our justice system. It appears this couple has been pulling off this scam for more than 10 years.

Under California’s judicial realignment, if convicted they would serve time in county jail instead of state prison. It would be a real crime if they can’t serve their full sentences because of overcrowding.