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Traffic Stop Yields Suspect in ID Thefts

Crime: A woman pulled over in Yorba Linda may have stolen more than 20, police say. Documents in car link her and her mother to scams across Southland, they say.

September 28, 2002|VIVIAN LETRAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A woman who was pulled over in Yorba Linda for driving with illegally tinted windows and then allegedly produced a fake driver's license is suspected of stealing the identities of more than 20 people in Los Angeles and Riverside counties, Brea police said Friday.

Monica Dawn Ferguson, 27, of Lancaster was stopped Sunday by a Brea police officer on Old Canal Road because her driver's side window was illegally tinted, police said. She handed the officer a driver's license that police said had a false birth date and name. A background check revealed that she had an outstanding $25,000 warrant from Riverside County on forgery and narcotics-related charges.

Authorities said that when they searched Ferguson's gold Nissan Maxima, they found fake ID cards, checks, and credit card and real estate applications. The documents may link Ferguson and her mother, Cynthia, to a spate of fraud schemes throughout Southern California, police said. A computer, counterfeiting tools and receipts of items purchased with counterfeit checks also were found in the car, authorities said.

Ferguson was arrested on the outstanding warrant and on suspicion of forgery, fake identification, counterfeit checks and falsely identifying herself to the officer, police said. She is being held at Orange County Jail in Santa Ana on $75,000 bail.

"They've spent an awful lot of time going from business to business to commit the crimes," said Lt. Martin Needham of the Brea Police Department, which patrols Yorba Linda. The mother-daughter duo would steal people's identities by sifting through mailboxes, trash or belongings to obtain checks, bills or other personal information, Needham said.

The paper trail links the women to identity theft-related crimes in Riverside, Moreno Valley, Corona, Monrovia and Marina del Rey, Needham said. Most of the businesses targeted, including banks, credit card companies, telephone companies and retail stores, are in Riverside County. "We're looking at thousands of dollars that were stolen," Needham said.

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