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100+ Imperial Beachians Victims of Identity Theft Ring

A large identity theft ring preyed on more than 1,500 South Bay residents, including some from Imperial Beach.

Among more than 1,500 people whose personal information was stolen in a massive identity-theft ring based in the South Bay, 158 were from Imperial Beach, said Tanya Sierra with the San Diego County District Attorney's Office.

"Not each of these folks had their identity used to commit fraud, but their information was stolen and in possession of the perpetrators," Sierra said Tuesday via email.

Jose Alfredo Castillo, 38, and Maria Isabel Valdivia, 32, were convicted of various felonies, including conspiracy, ID theft, receiving stolen property and burglary and sentenced for the crimes Dec. 11.

Judge Laura Halgren sentenced Castillo to nearly four years behind bars and Valdivia to five years in state prison, part of which will be served on mandatory supervision.

Authorities said the defendants ran the ID theft and mail theft ring out of their home. Most of the personal information is believed to have come from stolen real estate files.

“These individuals were sophisticated enough to know the local agency thresholds on the amount of money that would require an open investigation,” said Chula Vista police Chief David Bejarano. “Using this knowledge, they stayed under this dollar amount to avoid law enforcement detection.”

Investigators found numerous items involved in the ID theft ring at the defendants’ home, including computers, printers, dozens of stolen credit cards and lists describing how to make counterfeit IDs.

Investigators working with the Computer and Technology Crime High-Tech Response Team (C.A.T.C.H.) identified the defendants who were arrested in July. The FBI and State Attorney General's Office were also part of the investigation.

C.A.T.C.H. is a collaborative task force brought together to apprehend and prosecute criminals who use technology to prey on the citizens of San Diego, Imperial Valley and Riverside counties.

Visit the District Attorney's website for information on how to avoid identity theft.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Mark December 19, 2012 at 09:02 PM
We are not hard enough on identity-theft criminals. This is a crime that needs more harsh punishment. Since the death penalty is underutilized and prevented by liberals and lunatics, there must be something else effective. I doubt if my suggestions would make it past the Supreme Court.

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