RENO, NV - Washoe County Sheriff’s detectives have broken up what they say was a credit card forgery ring following an investigation that began after Sheriff’s Detention Facility employees detected suspicious activity involving an inmate’s cash account.
The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office contracts with private companies to provide a banking system in which family members may deposit money into an inmate’s account for commissary supplies, email use, video visiting, and bail money if necessary.
On January 13, 2014, Detention Facility Booking Section employees noticed an inmate was leaving the facility with substantially more money in his inmate cash account than when he was booked into the facility.
That was reported to the Fraud Investigations Unit within the Sheriff’s Office. The unit’s investigation led to the identification of several people allegedly committing financial crimes and operating a credit card forgery lab.
40-year-old Harold Gross, 33-year-old Heather Vanus, 53-year-old Willie Dixon and 35-year-old Sean McKelvie are now in the Washoe County jail.
After receiving a search warrant, detectives seized the credit card forgery lab. Investigators say they found thousands of stolen credit card numbers, along with the personal identifying information from victims, such as mailing and email addresses, three-digit security codes, and expiration dates.
Investigators say the credit card accounts come from various parts of the United States and no Washoe County residents have been identified as victims.
According to a news release, no taxpayer money has been lost as a result of the fraudulent activity identified at the Detention Facility. Washoe County Undersheriff Tim Kuzanek says the Sheriff’s Office has been in contact with the vendors to enhance security requirements when deposits are being made.
But he says these incidents reveal how easily these crimes can be committed, and seizure of financial forgery labs in the Washoe County region by various law enforcement agencies continues to increase. Kuzanek urges residents to use this recent seizure as a reminder that credit card security is still a major public safety issue in the United States and that fraudsters continue to find ways to steal personal identifying information to use for their own financial benefit.
Kuzanek says citizens should keep a close watch on their banking and credit card statements and also consider using various identify theft prevention services through trusted vendors.