Detectives believe they’ve cracked a mother-daughter crime ring, suspected of committing millions of dollars in fraud in the Puget Sound region, all under the names of hundreds of car prowl, mail theft, and burglary victims.
Last Friday, Seattle Police Department Criminal Intelligence Unit investigators, United States Postal Inspectors a King County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team and SPD Patrol officers served a warrant at beige suburban home near the 11700 block of 64th Avenue S. in Skyway, where detectives believe a prolific 26-year-old woman and her 46-year-old mother have been running an industrial-scale identification theft operation.
Inside the two-story home, detectives found a half-dozen fake Washington State IDs—each featuring the 26-year-old suspect’s picture with a different name—lying out in the open, along with printers, blank checks, laptops, tablet computers and large boxes of jewelry. The garage of the home was also stacked to the ceiling with suspected stolen tools, luggage, generators and other items, and the search also turned up 14 grams of methamphetamine, 10 pounds of marijuana and a handgun.
Detectives arrested the 26-year-old daughter and her 46-year-old mother and booked them into the King County Jail for identity theft, fraud, and drug possession. Police also arrested and booked a 34-year-old man found at the home, who had a warrant for identity theft.
Investigators believe the suspects have racked up as much as $10,000 in charges a day under the identities of theft victims in Normandy Park, Medina, Everett, Auburn, and other cities in the Seattle area.
Police believe the suspects obtained their victims’ identification information through “mailboxing”—the practice of breaking into unsecured mailboxes for credit cards, state IDs, passports or bank information—as well as through burglaries and car prowls.
With those records and cards in hand, the suspects were able to print off Washington IDs cards in their victims’ names, and use them to rent cars, open bank accounts and rack up credit lines at department stores, where they would purchase and later return items for cash. Victims of crimes like this are often unaware their identities have been stolen until they receive notification of past due bills and bounced checks from stores and banks.
SPD detectives are still combing through massive amounts of evidence in this case and are working to identify and contact what they suspect are hundreds of victims.