or traded some of the equipment for methamphetamine.
"It was like chasing ghosts," he said. "Every ID was fake, every
phone was under a fake name. They drove cars without license plates."
The West Los Angeles-based group targeted businesses throughout
Southern California and Arizona that rented high-end recording and
video equipment, police said. Using various pieces of stolen
information, they would claim to be a production company and send a
representative to pick up the rental equipment. When the materials
were not returned, the storeowners would find all the information
given them was bogus.
Astro Audio in Glendale was the victim of such a theft in October,
so when Video Equipment Rentals of Glendale received a suspicious
order Nov. 25, employees notified police. When members of the ring
came to pick up the order, Officer Louie Mazadiego led a group of
police officers that followed them to a West Los Angeles house.
At the house, police found a variety of computer equipment and
crates full of stolen electronics in every room. They also found
information that led them to other locations in Los Angeles and
Orange counties. In all, they have arrested 11 people, some of whom
have computer and graphic-design backgrounds, Stokes said.
Small quantities of methamphetamine also were found.
"A common factor here was [the members of the ring] all appeared
to have a meth problem," Stokes said.
The case has been turned over to a district attorney specializing
in high-tech crimes and to the California High-Tech Crimes Task
Force. Charges are still being filed.
Stokes called it the largest identity theft case ever worked by
Glendale Police, adding that identity theft is the department's
largest and fastest-growing financial crime.