One crime leads to discovery of a larger theft operation

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By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Editor

Groveport Police recently uncovered a large identify theft operation.

According to Groveport Police Detective Josh Gilbert, on May 28 a 28-year-old Columbus man went to a company on Greenpointe Drive in Groveport and rented a large floor stripping machine and a 10-foot trailer, but never returned them. The items are valued at $56,000.

While investigating this incident, Groveport Police discovered the man had allegedly presented a false Georgia driver’s license and credit card using the name of an unknowing victim who lives in Georgia.

Gilbert said officers uncovered suspects residing in an apartment on Columbus’ east side. A search warrant was issued and officers found an 18-year-old woman allegedly in possession of counterfeit documents. Officers found phony credit cards, driver’s licenses, passports, and bank accounts for 34 false identities. Of these, 24 were incidents of identity theft, 10 were false creations of a non-existent person, and four were fraudulent business LLCs.

Also, 300 blank Western Union money orders were found along with a large stack of applications for a Columbus based temporary employment service.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Gilbert. “It’s way larger than this.”

Gilbert said warrants are out for the felony arrest of the two suspects for counterfeiting, identify fraud, and theft. He said Groveport Police are working with the U.S. Secret Service and Georgia authorities on the investigation. He said a larger indictment may be forthcoming.

Gilbert said that, in his experience, this is the largest identity theft operation he has seen.

“The suspects are profiting on the backs of the victims and driving up people’s and businesses’ insurance costs,” said Gilbert.

Gilbert said the allegedly stolen equipment from the local rental company has not yet been recovered.

“It’s hard to track,” said Gilbert of the overall identify theft investigation. “We keep peeling off layers. We follow the money and see where it goes.”

Gilbert said that, after the COVID pandemic, it has seemingly become easier for criminals to steal people’s identities.

“Banks, businesses, and services seem to be conducting fewer security checks,” said Gilbert. “There’s no face to face contacts and there’s lightened security online and there is so much being done on the Internet.”

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