Archive for March, 2014

Seattle archdiocese ID theft hits Clark County

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — Hackers have apparently stolen Social Security numbers from a database for the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, affecting teachers and volunteers at Catholic schools and churches in Western Washington.

Someone has been filing false tax returns and taking refunds.

KOIN 6 News spoke with two people in Clark County who were directly affected.

Sisters Susan and Diane, who did not want their identities revealed, told KOIN 6 News the person who tried to file tax returns using their Social Security numbers got rejected before money was actually sent.

But they are still concerned.

“I don’t blame my church, I don’t blame my parish or the archdiocese,” said Susan. “I blame the idiot who did this.”

“I don’t konw how this is going to impact Social Security or Medicare down the road since they have my Social Security number,” Diane said. “There were six attempts to file with my Social Security number but all six attempts were denied.”

Both sisters volunteer or work at Our Lady of the Lourdes Catholic parish in Vancouver, one of the 170 parishes in western Washington with victims of the breach.

Other victims returns were not rejected and refunds were sent to the wrong person. Clearing up the confusion takes months.

“What they have to do is send in a special form with their legitimate tax return that includes a copy of either their driver’s license, a passport or birth certificate, and then the IRS will go through whatever process they need to,” Susan said.

Victims and concerned church members packed St. Rose in Longview to hear from the experts what happened and what’s being done.

IRS Special Agent-in-Charge Kenneth Hines said most people find out they’re affected when they file their tax return.

He also said while there are safeguards in place to prevent tax fraud, there has been a 66% increase in this specific type of fraud.

KING reports two Catholic high schools in Seattle changed their schedules on March 14 so the staff could deal with the threat of identity theft.

The Daily News reports at least 10 teachers and some volunteers at St. Rose Catholic Church and schools in Longview are among potential victims. One teacher said her tax return was rejected because she was told it had already been filed.

The breached data was used to do background checks on employees and volunteers  affected more than 90,000 people.

In a letter posted on the diocese website, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said, in part:

“After learning of the problem, we immediately notified the IRS and FBI and acted to inform employees, volunteers and the public. We also created this tax fraud resource site to provide information about steps that can be taken.

“At this time, we can confirm only that some employees and volunteers of the archdiocese have been victims of tax identity fraud, and that such fraud scams are a national problem that has apparently been going on for sever al years and is now impacting our community.

“The IRS, FBI and our private security firm are each investigating and cooperating with each other. Despite that, at present we simply do not know how the problem originated, whether from systems within the archdiocese, including parishes and schools, or systems of vendors, or another outside source.”

The Archdiocese of Seattle also set up an Action Alert page for people who think they may be affected.

The Associated Press contributed content to this report.

Article source: http://koin.com/2014/03/28/seattle-archdiocese-id-theft-hits-clark-county/

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MCSO investigators talk identity theft, protection at Watch Talk Wednesday

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Identity theft and scams highlighted the presentation and discussion at The Woodlands Township Town Hall last week at the monthly Watch Talk Wednesday.


Montgomery County Sheriff’s Detective James Blackwell spoke with citizens about his own experiences investigating fraud and also armed attendees with information to protect themselves and loved ones from having their personal information compromised. Blackwell said businesses, individuals and governments can become victims of scams and identity theft. But for the presentation, he concentrated primarily on issues pertaining to individuals.

Blackwell said scammers are interested in a variety of information, including names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, email addresses, passwords, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers and even employer information. Such scammers can have a broad collection methodology, with criminals collecting data through burglaries, mail theft, Dumpster diving, phishing, hacking and the use of malware or botnets.

“At the Sheriff’s Office, every once in a while we might get an ATM skimmer; but for the most part, we see scams, Dumpster diving, mail thefts and burglaries,” Blackwell said. “We don’t see the more sophisticated criminals here too often.”

Counterfeit checks are most commonly seen by MCSO investigators; but once scammers have a person’s information, they can use it in many ways, Blackwell said. Among the fraud offenses a criminal can commit include purchases using a drop box or a fake address, account takeovers, phone service and utility theft, impersonation and even medical treatment or the purchase of education loans.

Blackwell said such scam artists can be multi-leveled and sophisticated with their operations.

“The more organized the scammers are, the more specific their job functions become,” Blackwell said. “The high-level guys have ‘collectors’ for info, ‘brokers’ to convert that info and pass on to people who will utilize that info for fraudulent activity.”

Citizens need to take plenty of care with email and phone-based scams, particularly those asking for immediate deposits or requests for personal information. Those who become victims of identity theft or fraud should contact their financial institutions, credit bureaus, file a police report and hang on to any records pertaining to the fraudulent activity, Blackwell said.

“If fraudulent checks are involved, make sure to either keep or get a copy of the front and back of the check for investigators,” Blackwell said. “The back of the check is the most important part.”

Citizens can minimize their risk for fraud by checking their bank and credit accounts frequently, immediately address any anomalies, protect vehicles and electronics with locks and encryptions and independently verify any requests made for personal information, Blackwell said.

The next Watch Talk Wedensday will be from noon to 1 p.m. April 23 at The Woodlands Township Town Hall, located at 2801 Technology Forest Boulevard For more information, visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov.

Article source: http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/courier/news/mcso-investigators-talk-identity-theft-protection-at-watch-talk-wednesday/article_5f25c527-3c69-54ce-af59-7524bb3650d1.html

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Investigators talk identity theft, protection at Watch Talk

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Identity theft and scams highlighted the presentation and discussion at The Woodlands Township Town Hall last week at the monthly Watch Talk Wednesday.


Montgomery County Sheriff’s Detective James Blackwell spoke with citizens about his own experiences investigating fraud and also armed attendees with information to protect themselves and loved ones from having their personal information compromised. Blackwell said businesses, individuals and governments can become victims of scams and identity theft. But for the presentation, he concentrated primarily on issues pertaining to individuals.

Blackwell said scammers are interested in a variety of information, including names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, email addresses, passwords, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers and even employer information. Such scammers can have a broad collection methodology, with criminals collecting data through burglaries, mail theft, Dumpster diving, phishing, hacking and the use of malware or botnets.

“At the Sheriff’s Office, every once in a while we might get an ATM skimmer; but for the most part, we see scams, Dumpster diving, mail thefts and burglaries,” Blackwell said. “We don’t see the more sophisticated criminals here too often.”

Counterfeit checks are most commonly seen by MCSO investigators; but once scammers have a person’s information, they can use it in many ways, Blackwell said. Among the fraud offenses a criminal can commit include purchases using a drop box or a fake address, account takeovers, phone service and utility theft, impersonation and even medical treatment or the purchase of education loans.

Blackwell said such scam artists can be multi-leveled and sophisticated with their operations.

“The more organized the scammers are, the more specific their job functions become,” Blackwell said. “The high-level guys have ‘collectors’ for info, ‘brokers’ to convert that info and pass on to people who will utilize that info for fraudulent activity.”

Citizens need to take plenty of care with email and phone-based scams, particularly those asking for immediate deposits or requests for personal information. Those who become victims of identity theft or fraud should contact their financial institutions, credit bureaus, file a police report and hang on to any records pertaining to the fraudulent activity, Blackwell said.

“If fraudulent checks are involved, make sure to either keep or get a copy of the front and back of the check for investigators,” Blackwell said. “The back of the check is the most important part.”

Citizens can minimize their risk for fraud by checking their bank and credit accounts frequently, immediately address any anomalies, protect vehicles and electronics with locks and encryptions and independently verify any requests made for personal information, Blackwell said.

The next Watch Talk Wedensday will be from noon to 1 p.m. April 23 at The Woodlands Township Town Hall, located at 2801 Technology Forest Boulevard For more information, visit www.thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov.

Article source: http://www.yourhoustonnews.com/courier/news/investigators-talk-identity-theft-protection-at-watch-talk/article_5f25c527-3c69-54ce-af59-7524bb3650d1.html

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Identity theft and IRS

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

Stolen identity tax filings are on the rise.

If you get a vague IRS Letter LTR 4464C that says, “Your return was selected because we are reviewing income you reported, income tax withholding, claims for tax credits, etc.,” identity theft is likely the reason.

Someone may have filed a return with your name, address and social security number claiming a fraudulent refund. Buckle up, because you are in for a long headache.

First steps

• Call the IRS and confirm whether a fraudulent return was filed.

• If fraud is confirmed, call all the numbers below to report the identity theft.

• Utah residents: Go to idtheft.utah.gov/reportidtheft/

Once your Identity Theft Report is entered into the IRS and you have submitted it to law enforcement, you will be able to print a copy of your Utah Attorney General Identity Theft Report including the Incident Number and Affidavit. The report and affidavit can be sent to creditors, collection agencies and all three major credit reporting agencies.

Bonus Benefit: The report will save you time arguing about fake credit cards that will soon appear. It shows the issuer you aren’t just trying to get out of a debt.

• Get a Power of Attorney from your CPA so he/she can handle the IRS.

• If you call Equifax, they will report the theft to the other credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax).

• Contact all banks and brokerage accounts. Consider changing all accounts.

• Change all PINs.

• Contact all credit card companies.

• Request new debit/credit cards.

• Change all passwords for any online access, accounts, email, etc.

• Maintain constant watch on all bank, credit card and other financial accounts.

Important phone numbers

Federal Trade Commission, (877) 438-4338

Social Security Administration, (800) 772-1213

Equifax, (800) 525-6285

ID Theft Hotline, (800) 908-4490

Filing your correct return

After a fraud, your actual tax return cannot be filed electronically. You must paper file and include a Form 14039 Identity Theft Affidavit for each filer. You must include proof of identity. The proof can be a copy of your driver’s license, passport or social security card for each filer.

Finally, be patient. Correcting this problem will take years, but it is necessary.

Kevin Simister, one of the partners at Hawkins Cloward Simister, was named Utah’s Outstanding CPA in 2007. For more information about your taxes, log on to MyCPA.com.

Article source: http://www.heraldextra.com/lifestyles/identity-theft-and-irs/article_c8f23645-89f4-5836-afc3-30b436794708.html

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Woman charged with identity theft

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – A Louisville woman is facing charges for using the name of another woman to get service from LGE.

An arrest warrant says Hazel L. Cherry, 31, used the victim’s name and identifying information for several years.

According to the warrant the victim was not aware her identity had been stolen until she was contacted by LGE for a past due bill.

Louisville Metro Police said their investigation found Cherry, who also used the names Hazel Cosby and Hazel Crosby had rented two apartments in the name of the victim, who is a relative. Cherry had also been able to get LGE service at both locations.

Cherry was arrested March 27 on a charged of theft of identity of another without consent. She is also being held on several outstanding warrants.

Copyright 2014 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.

Article source: http://www.wave3.com/story/25101611/woman-charged-with-identity-theft

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Woman faces more counts of identity theft, credit card fraud

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

A Gainesville man said his daughter-in-law stole thousands of dollars from him and his wife after helping prepare their taxes.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office has obtained additional warrants on Kathy Ann Cantrell, 41, of Gillsville in connection with identity theft incidents involving credit card transactions.

The warrants, obtained Tuesday, stemmed from an ongoing investigation indicating Cantrell had opened four credit card accounts in the names of two separate victims, according to a Thursday news release from the sheriff’s office.

Cantrell was charged with using the credit cards more than 460 times between June 2013 and January 2014. Cantrell received more than $40,120 in currency, goods, and services in those transactions.

She remains in the Hall County Jail on total bail of $2,685,000.

Cantrell was charged March 11 with 67 counts of credit card fraud and one count of identity theft. At that time, she was already in custody on charges of insurance fraud.

Those charges stemmed from a financial card fraud report filed by Homer Cantrell of Gainesville.

“We started getting calls from bill collectors, that’s how we found out about it,” Homer Cantrell said.

Homer Cantrell said Kathy Ann Cantrell was his daughter-in-law and had prepared income taxes for him and his wife for a couple of years.

He said Kathy Cantrell pulled up their information on computers to open credit card accounts.

The Sheriff’s Office had said Kathy Cantrell used a credit card 67 times over two months to obtain more than $13,000 in currency, goods and services.

Homer Cantrell said she charged about $60,000 on both him and his wife over a little more than a year. He said the calls from bill collectors started about the first week in January.

“She had all that (billing) information put in a post office box in her name, so we weren’t getting (bills),” Homer Cantrell said.

Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Nicole Bailes said the additional warrants resulted from investigators identifying more victims.

“We had additional victims come forward,” she said.

“Our investigators linked (Kathy Cantrell) in with similar transactions,” Bailes added. “We’re still checking to see if she’s linked to other victims.”

Kathy Cantrell’s case has been bound over to Superior Court, canceling a committal hearing that had been scheduled for today.

Article source: http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/section/6/article/97462/

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Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. Talks About Identity Theft, Corruption and the Carpet In …

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

cyrus r. vance

Illustration by Jon Stitch

Crimefighter Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., recently began his second term as Manhattan District Attorney. The 60-year-old Upper West Sider, who began his legal career in the 1980s as an assistant district attorney prosecuting cases of murder and organized crime, sat down with the Observer for an interview in his office at 1 Hogan Place.

We have a piece in this issue about a reporter of ours who had his identity stolen. One of the takeaways is that penalties for identity theft are perhaps too mild. Would you like to see the laws change? Twenty years ago, when I was a young prosecutor, the concept of identity theft didn’t exist. It is now the fastest-growing crime in the country. Even I’ve been a victim. We have devoted huge resources to the area, but the laws are outdated, and we have asked the legislature to make easy fixes—for example, graduating the crime of identity theft according to the number of identities assumed or the dollar amount obtained. Under current laws, which were largely written in 2002, a defendant who uses the identity of one victim to steal $2,001 is facing the same charge as a defendant who assumes the identity of 250 victims to steal $500,000. That doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t reflect the impact that I.D. theft is having in 2014.

Do you feel you have the technological capabilities you need? Computer crime is like a tsunami, and anybody who tells you they have it under control isn’t being candid. We started a cybercrime lab, and those analysts are working on every kind of case that comes into our office, from the obvious, like identity theft and cybercrime, to murders and sex trafficking. My office has become a national leader in this area, and we’re even training other prosecutors’ offices to conduct their own cybercrime investigations.

Violent crime is what everybody used to associate with New York, which nowadays is down, of course, but there is a widespread perception that Wall Street plays a rigged game, and with an ever-growing number of prosecutions into everyday entities like the firefighter pension funds who were indicted recently by your office, it seems fair to ask: Is New York becoming more corrupt? No. I think actually corruption has actually declined over the course of the city’s history. But clearly we have more work to do. Fraud and public corruption schemes have grown more intricate and sophisticated, and state laws simply have not kept pace. It’s easier to convict someone of bribing a boxer than a public official. We need lawmakers to stand up for their constituents and strengthen anti-corruption laws.

There’s a certain mystique surrounding the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Can you tell us one thing about the job that undermines the mystique? When I came back to the office in 2009, I went back to my old bureau, and I realized I was walking on the same carpet I paced on back in 1982. Not figuratively. It’s literally the exact same carpet.

Article source: http://observer.com/2014/03/cyrus-r-vance-jr-talks-about-identity-theft-corruption-and-the-carpet-in-the-manhattan-district-attorneys-office/

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Taxpayer advocate warns of identity scams – Beckley Register

Friday, March 28th, 2014

If you’ve ever gotten a call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent requesting that you meet them to make a payment or they ask to verify your information, you’re probably not alone.

These scams are happening with greater frequency, officials say.

Larry Hostottle of the Taxpayer Advocate Service of the IRS spoke about the issue at the Raleigh County Commission on Aging on Wednesday.

His message wasn’t just to warn seniors, but to tell all of us that personal information needs to be protected.

“That’s what they do. They steal your name and they get a job and use it for employment purposes. You’ll usually find that out because when that employer issues the 1099 or W-2 in January and February, you go to your mailbox and you open it up and you say ‘I’m retired, I’ve never worked at this place.’

“So not only are you having to fight the IRS to prove that you didn’t make the income… you just went over the limit for Social Security so now your Social Security for next year will be reduced if not totally eliminated. So now you have to fight Social Security too to get it reinstated.”

The IRS says that it has seen a significant increase in refund fraud that involves identity thieves who file false claims for refunds by stealing and then using someone’s Social Security number. The investigative work done by the Criminal Investigation unit is a major component of the Internal Revenue Service’s efforts to combat tax-related identity theft.

According to the IRS website, in fiscal year 2012, the IRS initiated approximately 900 identity theft-related criminal investigations, tripling the number of investigations initiated in FY 2011.

Direct investigative time applied to identity theft related investigations increased by 129 percent over that same period. Prosecution recommendations, indictments, and those convicted and sentenced for identity theft violations have increased dramatically since 2010. Sentences handed down for convictions relating to identity theft have been significant, ranging from four months to 25 years in prison.

“The second type of ID theft is when somebody gets your name, your address and your Social Security Number, and they file a tax return. They just make up income and they make up withholding. They file that tax return and get a refund direct-deposited,” Hostottle said. “Nine times out of 10 they’re not filing a paper return, they are filing an electronic return. There is no signature on it, it’s an electronically filed return with your name, address and Social Security Number. Last year alone, 2012, there were 66,000 ID theft returns filed nationwide. Since 2009 there have been over 700,000 ID theft returns filed.”

If your identity has been stolen, you can use an ID Theft affidavit to report the theft to most of the parties involved. All three credit bureaus and many major creditors have agreed to accept the affidavit. You can download the ID theft affidavit or request a copy by calling toll-free 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338). You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

If you believe someone has used your SSN fraudulently, contact the IRS immediately at 1-800-908-4490. You will need to fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039, available at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f14039.pdf.

For more information or to get help from the Taxpayer Advocate Service of the IRS, call 1-877-777-4778 or download form 911 from www.irs.gov/advocate.

— E-mail: cboyd@register-herald.com

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Tips for preventing identity theft

Tips for preventing identity theft

Identity thieves steal your personal information to commit fraud. They can damage your credit status and cost you time and money restoring your good name. Reduce your risk of becoming a victim:

— Don’t carry your Social Security card or write it on your checks. Only give out your SSN when absolutely necessary.

— Protect your PIN. Never write a PIN on a credit/debit card or on a slip of paper kept in your wallet.

— Watch out for “shoulder surfers.” Use your free hand to shield the keypad when using pay phones and ATMs.

— Collect mail promptly. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold when you are away from home.

— Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.

— Keep your receipts. Ask for carbons and incorrect charge slips as well. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.

— Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.

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Actual cases

The following are summaries from the Internal Revenue Service of actual cases involving tax-related identity theft:

— In Raleigh, N.C., two men were sentenced to prison for their roles in an identity theft scheme. The two broke into a tax preparation office, stealing over 300 files containing personal information of tax clients. They then filed 2010 tax returns in the names of the clients and directed the tax refunds to either debit cards, which were mailed to addresses they knew were vacant, or to bank accounts that were opened using fraudulent and unauthorized information.

— Baton Rouge, La., a woman was sentenced to 81 months in prison and three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay $699,734 in restitution to the IRS and $11,138 to the Louisiana Department of Revenue. She admitted to submitting hundreds of false tax returns in the names of other individuals. She filed approximately 563 false federal returns, claiming refunds totaling over $700,000.

Article source: http://www.register-herald.com/latestnews/x1316961290/Taxpayer-advocate-warns-of-identity-scams

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Fort Lee Police charge trio with identity theft

Friday, March 28th, 2014

FORT LEE — A Fort Lee police officer allegedly caught three New Yorkers with fraudulent gift cards and illegally bought iPhones on March 14, arresting the trio on identity and credit card theft, forgery and other charges.

Detective Timothy Cullen stopped 21-year-old Joley Aristhee of Queens, 24-year-old Kianne Clarke of Rosedale and 23-year-old Kristine Lewis of Rosedale after they sped by him in a rented 2014 Chrysler 300 on Route 1 North, according to police.

A consented search of the car led to the discovery of 52 gift cards with stolen credit card numbers on the magnetic strip and 43 new iPhones, valued at more than $27,000, that had been allegedly purchased with the fraudulent cards at various malls in Pennsylvania. Police also allegedly seized $3,800 in cash during the arrest.

Aristhee, Clarke and Lewis are all facing charges of identity theft, credit card theft, forgery and receiving stolen property. Aristhee has also been charged with hindering apprehension after allegedly discarding an additional eight fraudulent credit cards as he was being transported in a police car for processing. He is being held at Bergen County Jail in lieu of his $15,000 bail.

Lewis and Clarke were released after posting 10 percent of their $5,000 and $10,000 bails, respectively. Fort Lee detectives are working with Pennsylvania law enforcement on the case, said police.

“The Fort Lee Police Department will continue to investigate identity thefts in an effort to minimize the damage inflicted upon ID theft victims,” said Police Chief Keith Bendul in a statement. “Everyone should take steps to protect personal information from thieves and periodically review their credit report.”

Email: shkolnikova@northjersey.com

Article source: http://www.northjersey.com/news/crime-and-courts/police-charge-trio-with-identity-theft-1.753027

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Man charged in connection to Central Texas identity theft ring

Friday, March 28th, 2014

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police arrested a man who they say is connected to an identity theft ring spanning across Central Texas.

Mark Maritano, 45,  is now facing a slew of charges including burglary and debit card abuse.

“I honestly felt so invaded,” said Catherine, an alleged victim of the crime ring. She wanted to remain anonymous after saying she was completely violated last October, having both her identity and car stolen. “It’s definitely changed my life.”

The University of Texas student woke up one morning to find her apartment door wide open.

“Once I was getting ready to go to school I looked for my keys and my wallet and I couldn’t find it,” she said. Her car was also gone. She quickly called police and her debit card provider.

“I told them to freeze it send me a new card,” she added. “I looked at the statements and it was used at a 7-Eleven near my house.”

Police retrieved surveillance images of a man using Catherine’s debit card at the convenience store and investigators used the surveillance images to connect Maritano to the case.

Austin Police say the 45-year-old is a part of a complex financial crime ring that is under investigation by agencies across the state. Police have not disclosed an exact number of victims.

IN-DEPTH

At some point, many of us will fall victim to identity theft.
So what can you do to protect yourself?
First — place a fraud alert on your credit line by contacting a credit reporting agency.
After that, you can begin the process to replace lost or stolen cards.
One of the most important things to remember: keep a record of everything you do as you try to repair your credit.

“The person who used my identity and my credit card was a different person that used my car,” Catherine said.

By time police recovered Catherine’s car, it was totaled.

Detectives say they located Maritano in an Austin motel Wednesday with other people’s credit cards in his possession.

The whole ordeal has been a whirlwind for Catherine as she works to piece her life back together.

“Be more aware don’t have a false sense of security, always lock your doors for sure,” said Catherine. “Double check you locked your door.”

Maritano had four different warrants out for his arrest. He’s now being held in the Travis County Jail on charges of burglary of a habitation, unauthorized use of a vehicle and four counts of credit card abuse. His bond was been set at more than $100,000.

Article source: http://kxan.com/2014/03/27/man-charged-in-connection-to-central-texas-identity-theft-ring/

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