Long Beach Police, federal authorities arrest 11 in gang-run tax fraud scheme

Baby Insane Crips tied to identity theft, tax fraud resulting in $1 million loss.

By Tracy Manzer Staff Writerpresstelegram.com
Posted: 12/06/2012 05:46:23 PM PST
December 7, 2012 5:38 AM GMTUpdated: 12/06/2012 09:38:07 PM PST

Adrian Gonzalez, assistant inspector with the USPS, left, and Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell announce 11 arrests in an identity theft ring involving the USPS and the Secret Service on December 6, 2012. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

LONG BEACH Eleven people were arrested Thursday for taking part in a gang-run identity theft and tax fraud scheme, local and federal authorities announced.
A total of 32 warrants were served in cities throughout Los Angeles County, including Long Beach, Huntington Beach, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Cerritos, that targeted members and associates of the Baby Insane Crips gang, one of the most violent gangs in the area, said Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell.

The operation stemmed from a sweeping indictment of the gang that began in 2009, and that resulted in the arrest of 16 people last June in connection with 13 shootings, and at least one murder, carried out over a three-year period, McDonnell said.

Detectives working on that investigation learned the gang was not only engaged in violent crimes, but also had become adept at identity theft and tax fraud, the chief said.

"The stolen proceeds were used to fund their gang lifestyle," McDonnell said at a press conference held at the LBPD headquarters.

In the scheme, detectives learned members of the gang would get victims' personal information, such as social security numbers and dates of birth, through any number of ways. The thieves would then file tax returns with that person's information, funneling the money to a relative or associate, Cmdr. Rich Farfan explained.

The investigation was a tedious one, but it uncovered the theft of more than $1 million from the federal government and from individual victims, the chief said.The money was used to buy high-end items, ranging from big screen TVS and high-definition 3-D projectors to top-of-the-line rims and luxury cars - even a $50,000 power boat and trailer.

"We have a lot of people with no employment living a very lavish lifestyle," the chief said.

Many of the goodies were sold by the thieves on the street, or stored until they could be fenced.

Those items, along with 10 guns, were seized when the search warrants were served early Thursday by more than 200 law enforcement members, including Long Beach police officers, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the United States Secret Service. Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services agents also took eight children into protective custody during the raids, the chief said.

Those arrested were identified as:
Crystal Armijo, 27, of Long Beach; April Clark, 21, of Long Beach; Christina Clark, 23, of Long Beach; John Hermida, 48, of Long Beach; Lakanda Horn, 40, of Carson; Dominique Lewis, 24, Los Angeles; Ebony Mosely, 30, Harbor City; Dejuana Oliver, 22, Long Beach; Lamartin Patterson, 30, Long Beach; Torrence Stokes, 27, Los Angeles; and Edward

Some of the items confiscated during the arrest of nearly a dozen suspects in an identity theft ring involving the LBPD, USPS and the Secret Service on December 6, 2012. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

Winston, 27, of Long Beach.They were all booked on state charges, though federal authorities are still conducting their investigations and could file charges as well, the chief said.

McDonnell and other law enforcement leaders said the joint operation is a good illustration for the public on why people should remain vigilant about keeping their personal information safe.

The chief urged residents to keep track of all bank accounts, and frequently check for unusual activity. No one should give out personal information, such as their social security number and birth date, over the phone or the internet, he said.

In the event that your identity is stolen, you should have your files flagged by the Internal Revenue Service and the state Franchise Tax Board to avoid falling victim to someone filing a false tax return with your information, federal representatives said.

The joint operation should also serve as a warning to all gang members and criminals that local, state and federal authorities are working together to put a stop to such crimes, the chief added.

"We will not stand for the destruction of our community," McDonnell said.
tracy.manzer@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1261, twitter.com/tmanzer

Keep your identity safe:
Never buy goods on the street.
Call 911 if someone tries to sell you something on the street, including business arrangements for car repairs, painting or gardening services.
Check with the California Department of Consumer Affairs at 800-952-5210 or www.dca.ca.gov for the license status of any contractor.
Seniors should be wary of strangers talking to you as you exit the bank, grocery store or any other shopping area. Thieves specializing in real estate fraud, credit card fraud or other scams target the elderly at these locations.
Do not accept checks from unsolicited Internet contacts. Report any suspicious Internet fraud schemes to the National White Collar Crime Task Force at 800-352-3221 or go to www.ic3.gov.
Never let people you don't know into your home under any circumstance. Keep track of all ATM and debit card purchases. Shield your PIN when entering it into a keypad. Watch out for "skimming," in which a device is used to capture your account and personal information encoded on your cards with an easy swipe. Skimming is most often done in restaurants and bars.