The head of an organized Eastside identity theft ring and several of her associates were arrested this week after months of investigation, the reported Thursday.
Two women, including the ringleader, and three men were arrested ranging from ages 30 to 40, according to the Bellevue Police Department.
According to charging papers released by the King County Prosecuting Attorney's office, the alleged ringleader was identified as Crystal Marlene Weaver, 30, of Bellevue, who is in jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Others who face charges includes Julius Nedlic, 27, Spanaway; Rene Fernandez, 39, Bellevue; and Nicola A. Becker, 40, Renton, according to April 30 court papers. The name of the fifth person arrested was not immediately available.
Nedlic is being held in King County Jail on $10,050 bail, and Becker and Fernandez were released conditionally two days after their April 25 arrests.
According to court papers, equipment used in the creation of fake identification cards, such as computers, laminating paper and more, were found at Weaver's apartment in the 1800 block of 148th Avenue Southeast.
About a dozen victims were identified in the ring, including those whose personal information was stolen and used in fraudulent checks or the creation of fake ID cards, and one person who was hurt slightly after allegedly being struck by Weaver's car when she and an accomplice tried to drive away from an attempt to use a fake account to buy iPhones, according to court papers.
According to a press release from the Bellevue Police Department, the investigation stemmed from an auto theft and drug investigation in the fall of 2011.
The investigation uncovered evidence of the Bellevue-based, organized identity theft ring. Weaver took mail and personal financial documents obtained by her crew through car prowls, mail thefts, and residential burglaries in Bellevue and the greater Eastside, into her apartment according to court papers.
After getting the financial documents, Weaver would use computers, digital cameras and imaging software, air brushes and laminating supplies to produce legitimate looking Washington Driver’s Licenses, according to charging papers.
The forged IDs and the victims’ real credit cards and washed checks would be used to make expensive purchases at stores and to cash large checks at local banks, the Bellevue Police reported. The ringleader and the associates would split the proceeds and the associates would also receive meth from the ringleader, according to the press release from the police department.
Lt. Mike Murray, spokesman for the , said an associate of the ringleader tried to use a fraudulent check on March 30 at a Kirkland AT&T store, while the ringleader waited in a car outside.
"The clerk at the store was suspicious, and the guy took off and got into the car with the female," Murray said. "The clerk ran after him taking pictures with a cell phone, and the guy got out of the car and took off running."
When the clerk approached the ringleader's car, she drove off. "She got nervous and drove off and bopped (the clerk's) head on the pillar of the car. He was OK, but that's where an assault charge came in," Murray said.
Photos of the car, its plate and at least one of the suspects were forwarded to Bellevue Police.
"The Bellevue Police Department got positive matches, and that's where they connected the dots," Murray said.
The King County Prosecutor’s Office also assigned two deputy prosecutors to the case.
Weaver and some of her crew were tracked down on April 25. The Bellevue Police Special Enforcement Team arrested Weaver, Nedlic, Fernandez and Becker with the help of Lake Forest Park Police after following Weaver's car from the QFC at 14130 Juanita Dr. in Kirkland, according to charging papers.
Weaver faces 16 felony counts including ID Theft, Assault, Forgery, Financial Fraud, and Possession of Methamphetamine.
Arraignments are scheduled for May 14.
Armed with additional search warrants, the Special Enforcement Team searched two Bellevue apartments and a Renton hotel where they discovered the ID theft factory as well as the charred remains of stolen mail and financial documents in a fireplace, according to the Bellevue Police Department.
Investigators found dozens of stolen personal and business checks were found along with counterfeit IDs and methamphetamine, the Bellevue police reported. A fifth suspect was arrested in Bellevue on May 1 and booked into King County Jail on three counts of ID theft second degree and one count of Possession of Stolen Property second degree.