SPOKANE, Wash. - One month after a multi-agency task force raided five homes in what's been called the most extensive identity theft ring in Spokane, investigators are still no closer to finding out exactly how the thieves obtained victims' personal information.
Spokane County Sheriff's Spokesperson, Deputy Craig Chamberlin, told KHQ on Wednesday that detectives are continuing to track down leads to find out how a loosely-knit group of criminals stole identities from 300 people nationwide.
John Mosby was one of the victims. In his four decades running luxury rental businesses, Mr. Tux and Spokane Limousine, he'd never seen anything like this.
"It always questions the integrity of the business," Mosby said. "We've been around 40 years between Mr. Tux and Spokane Limousine."
Mosby said a former book-keeper threw a book of the company's checks into a trash without shredding them first. The checking account was closed but that was all the crooks needed. Court documents show 24-year-old Michael Clarke Jr., along with a twisted web of alleged accomplices, went to work passing thousands of dollars in bad checks at places like 7-11 and Money Tree. In all, Mosby said, they tried to pass $28,000 worth of checks from Spokane Limousine's account.
"We all make mistakes but it shows you how accessible we are today to the identity theft we all worry about," Mosby continued.
Documents show the scheme was massive. Investigators identified more than 300 victims and said all had their identity stolen by Clarke. According to detectives, victims are located all over the United States and many of them are active military members. The majority of the victims have had fraudulent credit card accounts opened by Clarke, who then charged thousands of dollars on the fraudulently obtained credit cards.
The house of cards came tumbling down in October 11, 2012 when a multi-agency task force raided close to half a dozen homes and arrested two people, including Clarke, in what was one of the most extensive ID ring busts ever.
Members of the Spokane County Sheriff's Office Investigative Task Force (ITF), Investigative Support Unit (ISU), Spokane Police Department, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Social Security Administration and a U.S. Postal Inspector served five search warrants at homes in Spokane City and Spokane County. The warrants were served at residences near the 1600 block of East Decatur, the 3800 block of East 36th, the 600 block of South Altamont, the 1900 block of North Waldo and the 4200 block of North Burns.
Clarke was arrested at his home near 36th and Rebecca and later charged with four counts of Forgery, one count of 2nd Degree Theft and one count of Money Laundering.
"Somewhere you're going to get caught down the road," Mosby said.
Mosby was tipped off after receiving a call from a check cashing company. In the end, he got lucky. Mosby said Spokane Limousine never lost a dime thanks to diligent employees at the check cashing companies who called for verification.
"We were fortunate that we didn't have to make good on any of the check because they were all forged," he said.
Wednesday, Clarke was arrested and booked in the Spokane County Jail on unrelated felony charges.
Investigators said the investigation is on-going and additional arrests and search warrants are expected.