Photo: Inside of ID Theft Lab
Ventura County – In the world of crime, law enforcement often makes arrests of “small fry” involved in illegal activity with the ultimate objective of working their way up the criminal food chain to the “big fish.”
That seems to have been the protocol taken by personnel from multiple agencies over the past month, as the Thousand Oaks Investigations Bureau, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Jail Intelligence Unit, and the Moorpark Sheriff’s Patrol Bureau communicated with one another in an investigation that began December 10th when patrol officers responded to a report of commercial shoplifters working in the City of Moorpark.
That initial report led to the arrest of three suspects on outstanding warrants and what Ventura County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Det. Sgt. Kevin Lynch described as “unrelated drug charges.” The arrests and subsequent investigations into the activities of these three indicated that “they were involved in identity theft,” which prompted further investigation lasting another four weeks.
During that time, detectives discovered “a significant amount of identity theft tied to the suspects,” which included a high level of technical sophistication.
At that point, multiple search warrants were obtained for residences throughout L.A. County and Ventura County by law enforcement agencies in each county, resulting in “a collaborative effort” that ultimately led to the January 11th discovery of what was described as an “ID theft lab” involving more than a dozen suspects, all of whom were taken into custody at that time.
The evidence gathered included “embossers, skimmers, computers, and blank credit cards.” Among those arrested were suspected ringleaders 31-year-old Los Angeles resident Ewao Butler and 29-year-old Ventura County resident Laura Lyons, each of whom was arrested on “several identity theft charges” and were transported to Ventura County Jail where they are held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
Photo: Courtesy Ventura County Sheriff’s Department