District Attorney Scott Storey announced today that a grand jury has returned a 53-count indictment breaking up an identity theft ring operating in Jefferson County and throughout the Denver metro area.
There are six suspects named in the indictment and all have been arrested:
- Amy Jean Bauer, 33, of Westminster
- Brittany Megan Gray, 21, Arvada
- Zachary Paul Engen, 20, Arvada
- Eric Michael Flynn, 36, Westminster
- Robert Shane Gerstner, 40, Wheat Ridge
- Charles Aaron Braecklein, 31, of Denver
Five of the six-member ring have been charged with racketeering (Violation of the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act) and all have been charged with various felony counts including Identity Theft, Possession of Identity Theft Tools, Theft, Computer Crime, Criminal Impersonation, and possession of methamphetamine.
Checks, Credit Cards, Gift Cards, Electronics, Jewelry, and more stolen
During a 30-day period between November and December 2008 members of this identity theft ring are accused of having stolen over $11,000 through the use of illegally acquired personal and financial information.
Working together as an organized enterprise they stole checks, credit cards, gift cards, electronics, jewelry and other items for their personal use. They stole cars, broke into cars taking purses and wallets (with drivers’ licenses and Social Security numbers), stole mail from mailboxes, and stole personal and financial information from a hotel room and a church.
According to the indictment they created checks and identification cards on a computer. They cashed the forged checks or used them to fraudulently purchase merchandise or gift cards. They also used the stolen credit cards to make purchases.
Investigation by Arvada Police Department
Arvada Police began this investigation with one identity theft case in September 2008. Investigators say they had no idea of the size of the ring until November.
“Arvada did a great job with this investigation.” said DA Storey, “These cases are complicated and require precision and great skill.”
The victims include 17 individuals, Target, King Soopers, Walmart, Lakewood Christian Church, Bellco Credit Union, and many other banks where they cashed stolen and forged checks.
Members of the group are also suspected of having gone into the Lakewood Christian Church during a wedding and stealing personal and financial information from four people in the church, as well as checks drawn on the church’s bank account.
Searches conducted during this investigation uncovered many stolen or computer generated checks, payroll checks, bank statements, Social Security cards, personal and financial documents of people whose identity had not yet been breached (up to 100 people), as well as methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.
“This identity theft ring, like most others, was motivated by the participants’ methamphetamine use.” said DA Storey. “As we break up yet another identity theft ring, this should serve as a reminder of just how vulnerable we are. We must be vigilant in keeping our personal and financial identifying information safe. Leaving purses or wallets in your car is always risky; ID thieves stake out parking lots looking for their next victim. We also strongly recommend that you never put your outgoing mail containing checks or financial account numbers into your home mail box. Take those directly to the Post Office and walk them inside.”
For more tips on protecting yourself from identify thieves, go to this page on the District Attorney’s website: http://jeffco.us/da/da_T99_R132.htm or call the DA’s Fraud Hotline, 303-271-6980.