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UPDATED: Local raid nets ID thieves

Posted: February 5, 2009 11:02 p.m.
Updated: February 6, 2009 11:59 a.m.

A person of interest is removed from the car and unhandcuffed as sheriff's deputies escort him back into a business for questioning Thursday.

A sheriff's bus transported 38 people to the Los Angeles County Inmate Reception Center on Friday morning after booking them for identity theft, a sheriff's official said.

The 38 transported suspects were among 55 arrested Thursday in a raid at L&M Optical West in the 28400 block of Avenue Rockefeller. Santa Clarita valley Sheriff's Deputies worked late into the night Thursday booking all 55 suspects, Lt. Brenda Cambra said.

"We had to bring on extra staff to handle the bookings. We transported people downtown because our holding cell isn't big enough," she said.

The arrest came on the heels of a three-month investigation, Detective Steve Low said.

The alleged ID thieves stole Social Security numbers and names of Santa Clarita Valley residents so the suspects could work at L&M Optical West.

"We are still investigating whether the company was involved and how the suspects acquired the Social Security numbers," Cambra said.

The Social Security Administration informed the identity theft victims who in turn told the sheriff's deputies, Cambra said.

The sheriff's station began its own investigation and secured a search warrant, which it executed Thursday morning, Low said.

More than 10 Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's cars lined Avenues Rockefeller and Scott just before 9 a.m. A sheriff's van with bars over the windows waited to whisk suspects off to jail.

The deputies geared up as looky-loos watched from other businesses in the complex.

Exactly at 9 a.m. the deputies swarmed in, barging into two buildings looking for evidence and firing questions at employees.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement official answered questions on the raid Thursday, said Virginia Kice ICE spokeswoman. "We were not involved in the raid, the sheriff's department is the lead agency," she said.

If any of the suspects are deportable illegal aliens the sheriff's department will put a detainer on them and contact ICE, Kice said.

"That's up to ICE. We are interested in the crime of identity theft," Cambra said.


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