Police take down identity fraud ring in Washington County, issue public warning

ST. GEORGE Police are issuing a warning to the public Friday following the takedown of an identity theft ring in Washington County, affecting more than 300 people and leading to the arrests of three suspects with fraud skills so cunning that they were initially booked into jail under their alleged victims’ names.

Robert Sagarang, of Sherman Oaks, California, booking photo posted Jan. 17, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Authorities are urging the community to take precautions in making sure their identity is secure.

“Most importantly, we want the community to know that it is very critical that they do their part in protecting themselves with their identity and stuff in every way they possibly can,” Washington City Police Chief Jim Keith said Friday while standing in front of long tables filled with bagged evidence seized this week by police.

The matter was brought to the attention of law enforcement Tuesday after the Washington City Police Department was notified about an unauthorized credit card transaction in the amount of $2,700 for a vacation rental in Washington City.

An initial investigation showed the home was rented through a local property management company by three suspects, eventually identified as Robert Sagarang, 39, of Sherman Oaks, California, Diva Arias, 31, of Moreno Valley, California, and Sarah Paloyo, 38, of Yorba Linda, California.

Police obtained search warrants for the Washington City residence and an additional rental property in Santa Clara, Keith said, along with a vehicle also rented fraudulently by the suspects.

Sarah Paloyo, of Yorba Linda, California, booking photo posted Jan. 17, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

At the time, police had no idea of the gravity of the situation or magnitude of what was about to be revealed, Washington City Police Lt. Jason Williams said.

When the search warrants were executed, authorities discovered a large quantity of personal information belonging to more than 300 individuals, fraudulent driver’s licenses, credit cards, financial documents, checks, Social Security cards and equipment used to manufacture fraudulent documents, along with numerous cellphones and other stolen property, police said.

While Keith attributed some of the stolen items and personal information to vehicle burglaries, he said a vast amount of the information was stolen from mailboxes, including cluster mailboxes and mail collection boxes.

“A lot of this is simply going and getting into people’s mailboxes, you know, after the mail’s been delivered … and taking that back and taking information off a credit card and putting it on a new credit card with their picture and their name on it, but utilizing the number from the other individuals,” Keith said, adding:

Same thing with Social Security cards and driver’s licenses. The driver’s licenses, for most officers on the street, they would not even question it as being valid. It had all of the different individual logos for some of the states they’re using.

Diva Arias, of Moreno Valley, California, booking photo posted Jan. 17, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The three suspects were located and arrested Wednesday during a traffic stop in Santa Clara.

The trio was transported and initially booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility on fraud- and drug-related charges under false names after providing stolen identification belonging to their alleged victims.

Police said additional charges will be forthcoming as the ongoing investigation continues to unfold.

“We felt this would be a good case to share with the public and let them know to what magnitude we deal with this on a daily basis. … It’s happening every single day so it’s critical that we all do our part to prevent what we can,” Keith said, noting:

(There are) many, many victims in this case who haven’t even really been identified yet.

A small portion of the large quantity of evidence seized during the takedown of an identity fraud ring in Washington County, Utah, Jan. 19, 2018 | Photo by Kimberly Scott, St. George News

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Email: kscott@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

6 Comments

  • PlanetU January 19, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    More lazy … that don’t want to work and ruin others lives.
    Ed. ellipsis.

  • utahdiablo January 19, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    These POS are landing here every day folks, time to wake the hell up and lock everything and trust no one…Washington county isn’t the sleepy little town it used to be, those days are long over, thanks to the greed machine,…..so enjoy the future, just the tip so far

  • knobe January 20, 2018 at 4:03 am

    It would help the public More if they let us know the location of the group mail boxes that were robbed .

    There are hundreds around the county and if we knew Which ones were robbed
    It would give those people a heads up to check their credit reports for new accounts opened in their names .

    Hopefully tho they will be contacting all the Real people on the Fake drivers licenses .

    • desertgirl January 20, 2018 at 5:14 pm

      knobe, any of them can be robbed; there are no “special robbery mail boxes”.

  • Waid January 20, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Great work by the Washington City Police Department! Thank you for taking these sleazebag crooks off the street!

  • Caveat_Emptor January 20, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    I hope a broad audience reads this article, and understands how easy it is to steal an identity, with relatively simple steps. This was not the work of sophisticated cybersleuths from Russia. As others have noted, Washington County lost its innocence years ago, and is an easy target for folks coming out of So Cal, or Las Vegas.

    Many of us were negatively impacted by the Equifax breach last year, perpetrated by technically competent thieves. Hopefully, everyone has checked their credit reports at each of the three agencies recently, and took the steps to freeze their own reports. This is a pretty effective way to stop someone from taking out credit in your name, without your prior knowledge.

    Frankly, if your home mailbox is not secure, using a post office box can be a safe and secure alternative, for financially important mail.

Leave a Reply