Bellevue police break up alleged identity theft ring

Bellevue police break up alleged identity theft ring »Play Video
Photo courtesy of Bellevue PD
SEATTLE -- Accompanied by a SWAT team, Bellevue police raided a suspected identity theft ring in West Seattle Wednesday morning.

Police arrived at the home, located in the 7300 block of 16th Avenue SW, Wednesday morning and arrested four men and a 15-year-old runaway girl.

Police believe the group was behind an unsophisticated but prolific theft ring that victimized people throughout Puget Sound.

On Wednesday, officers found a stockpile of more than 200 credit cards, a healthy mix of driver's licenses, passports, social security cards and black checks.

Officers also uncovered laptops and cell phones, all of which police believe were stolen from car prowls, burglaries and mailboxes in the area.

"We are still going through all the evidence, but several cities besides Bellevue have already been victimized," said Carla Iafrate of the Bellevue Police Department.

Anthony Badon lives next door to the home that was raided. He said he frequently saw large numbers of people, mostly in their 20s, milling around the house and being loud. He also said he sometimes heard a woman screaming in middle of the night.

"It sounded like torture," he said. "I'm serious, it's disturbing."

While the alleged thieves were prolific, Iafrate said there was nothing high-tech about the scheme.

"The level of sophistication doesn't appear to be that great," she said.

Police got a lead on the group while working a related case. They don't know if the thieves were successful in using the IDs, credit cards and blank checks, but detectives hope the seized laptops will provide evidence of that.

The bust comes on the heals of several publicized mail theft busts throughout the region, including one in Port Angeles where a man is accused of stealing more than 100 pounds of mail.

When he learned what his next door neighbors had been arrested for, Badon said he's going to change his habits.

"It makes me kind of paranoid because I always put my mail out," he said. "Hopefully they didn't get a hold of my stuff."

Police do not believe there's a connection between the Port Townsend case and Wednesday's arrests. Officers will now begin the long process of contacting the victims.