Friday, January 29, 2010
Police Bust Property Crime Ring
By Jeff Proctor
Journal Staff Writer
Four major arrests.
Thousands of dollars worth of check fraud, auto burglaries and fake IDs.
A suspected conspiracy that stretches as far as Gallup and possibly beyond.
It's been another busy week for Albuquerque police detectives working property crimes, who are now partnering with the Secret Service on what may turn into a large-scale federal racketeering case.
On Jan. 20, detectives began working with loss prevention officers at the Kohl's store on Paseo del Norte on a series of auto burglaries and a bogus check scheme.
Surveillance video from the store's parking lot showed people leaving in a stolen pickup, which officers spotted on Monday at Eighth and Bridge SW, then pulled over.
Officers arrested Daniele Pedro, 34, and Gilbert Martinez, 25, on warrants from previous charges that include drug trafficking, forgery and embezzlement. Both were being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center without bond late Thursday.
Martinez had a loaded handgun with him at the time of the stop, police said.
Detectives learned Martinez and Pedro had broken into several vehicles at the Kohl's and at the Silva Lanes bowling alley, Police Chief Ray Schultz said.
"They were also part of an identity theft and fraud ring that included the manufacture of personal and corporate checks and fake IDs from numerous states," Schultz said. "We have also learned that they were working with other associates who were taking the checks and traveling to Gallup to cash the checks with the fake IDs, then bringing the money back to Albuquerque."
Through interviews and further investigation, detectives found their way to Lauran Wellborn, 29, and Jack Rivera, 36, who had been arrested Jan. 22 at a home on Marva SE on motor vehicle and conspiracy charges.
Schultz said Rivera and Wellborn were in cahoots with Pedro and Martinez on the bogus ID and check scheme and will likely face additional charges once detectives sort out the scope of the alleged conspiracy.
Police expect to make at least three more arrests in the coming days. Two of the suspects they're looking for have been arrested more than 40 times each during the past 15 years.
"This is just another example of how active a small group of property crime offenders can be to affect the lives of dozens of people and businesses," Schultz said. "The investigation is still developing as we find out what types of checks were being manufactured and where they were being distributed and cashed. We believe this group of individuals is going to be responsible for thousands of dollars in fraud, not to mention the stolen vehicle, the burglaries and no telling what else."
The Secret Service's involvement comes the same week Mayor Richard Berry announced a 15-point plan to fight property crimes that includes seeking federal prosecution against certain offenders in an attempt to secure tougher sentences.
An added twist to the investigation involved Wellborn and one of the suspects who is still at large.
Schultz said they were both in the car with Aaron Renfro on Jan. 9 when police stopped the vehicle because it was speeding. Renfro initially gave police a fake ID and later fled from the vehicle.
During a short foot pursuit, Renfro pulled a gun from his waistband and was fatally shot by police.