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Residents angry when ID thieves get hands on checks
ARLINGTON Locals might be wary of writing checks to businesses after a cache of personal information was found at the Snohomish home of a woman jailed on 82 counts of identify theft last week.
Police searching a home found banking information and identification belonging to several unsuspecting persons, many tied to a defunct Arlington business. The search warrant was issued for a man who Snohomish County prosecutors say was cutting catalytic converters from cars and then re-selling them. The premises yielded a trove of fake and stolen identity cards as well as photocopies of checks written to a former Arlington business, Preserving Memories.
Charging papers filed against suspects Dustin Canell and Susan Tate say police found several bins of business records in storage sheds at a Newberg Road house. Apparently the records were previously stored in a rental house owned by Mylene Henken of Arlington, and stolen in the fall of 2005 by a tenant who was evicted at that time. That tenant admitted to being involved in crooked dealings with the couple charged in last weeks cases.
Other financial information was stolen from a storage locker in Burlington and an Everett car over the last year. A checkbook and other property belonging to a Mountlake Terrace couple was found at the site: the owners claimed they did not know Canell or Tate and did not know how they got hold of their possessions.
Diane Lundberg of Arlington is one of the people whos bank routing information was found at the home and this in nothing new. She has been the victim of identity theft at least twice before. About nine years ago someone wrote more than $13,000 in checks on her account and two years ago her purse was stolen. At first Lundberg was mystified how Tate and Canell got hold of copies of her checks, until she remembered doing business with Henkens scrapbooking shop several years ago. Lundberg said she has learned to check her account frequently for suspicious purchases and was pretty sure she has since changed her bank account after her purse was stolen in December of 2005.
Im a little bit nervous; probably Im mad more than anything, Lundberg said. Anytime your information is out there its pretty scary.
Henken was also taken aback, although she didnt want to discuss how her customers information got into the hands of a nine-time felon such as Canell.
I dont even know this person, Henken said. She didnt want to discuss any potential damage the pair might have done to her customers credit history or finances. I dont even know if there was any damage, Henken said.
Deputy prosecutor Hal Hupp is one of two county attorneys who specialize in identity theft cases, with about 130 cases open at any given time. His unit deals with re-offenders with large rap sheets and or multiple victims dinged for at least $1,500 apiece.
Tate was already charged with second degree identity theft in October 2006 for using another womans ID when she was pulled over by police, according to Hupp. The cache of financial information found by sheriffs deputies presents some problems, since in order to charge a perpetrator with a more severe violation prosecutors must be able to show that money was actually collected by the thief.
Its still under investigation, Hupp said. Were just beginning the middle of the thing.
He urged anybody concerned about being hit by an ID thief to get a credit report, contact their bank, and to put a fraud alert on the three major credit bureaus. He said its incredibly easy for people to get another persons banking information and most customers dont think about it when they hand over a check for a purchase, but right at the bottom of a check is printed a persons bank routing and account numbers.