2012-02-24 / Front Page
Transient arrested in major fraud scheme
Also accused of stealing the identities of several local residents, Grant Lind, 48, was arrested Feb. 18 on charges of burglary, forgery and identity theft.
It’s one of the most significant fraud arrests local law enforcement has made in years, officials say.
“That’s the biggest find in recent history that I can remember, as far as those money orders go,” said Detective Sgt. Robert Arabian, supervisor of the Simi Valley Police Department’s property crimes division.
The department’s detective unit initiated an investigation after Lind entered a Simi Valley check-cashing business—AAA Century Check Cashing at 2321 Tapo St., Unit B—on Feb. 7 and passed a fraudulent check written for $650, Arabian said.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had been looking for Lind in connection with 50 outstanding counts of identity theft and fraud, Arabian said. On Feb. 18, Simi PD received information regarding Lind’s whereabouts, and Simi officers found and arrested Lind without incident.
During a search of Lind and his motor home hundreds of forged postal money orders were found, detectives say.
“The biggest thing that we found on him is $1.77 million in fraudulent postal money orders,” Arabian said. “When you translate it, it’s actually like counterfeit U.S. currency.”
Detectives say their investigation found that Lind was also in possession of numerous fraudulent checks that hadn’t been passed yet and personal identification stolen from a large number of victims in the Simi Valley and L.A. County areas.
The identification information is believed to have been collected by stealing mail, breaking into storage facilities and taking discarded trash from trash containers, Arabian said. The fake IDs and checks were used to buy “hundreds” of gift cards, he said.
Detectives are not sure how many people have been victimized by Lind’s alleged schemes.
“Minimally, we have a dozen across the U.S.—Florida, Wisconsin, West Virginia. There’s four Simi Valley victims that we know of right now. It’s going to go across the nation by the time we’re done,” Arabian said. While the department might not be able to prosecute each incident, he added, “we will concentrate on the local ones in Simi Valley and Ventura County.”
Police are also uncertain how long the fraud has been going on, but Arabian believes it is how Lind, who is unemployed, made his living.
After his arrest, Lind was booked at Ventura County Main Jail.
He has been charged with six felony counts: one count of second-degree commercial burglary, one count of identity theft by obtaining credit with someone else’s identification, one count of identity theft by possession of the personal identifying information of more than 10 people, and three counts of forgery.
Lind appeared in court on Feb. 22 and entered a plea of not guilty on all counts. The case was continued until March 2, when Lind will have his early disposition conference.
Lind was remanded back into the custody of the sheriff’s department and is being held on $50,000 bail—reduced from the $250,000 amount initially set at the time of his arrest.
Simi PD is continuing with the investigation into Lind’s alleged fraud activities and has partnered with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Secret Service.
“The largest portion of the case (the postal money orders) is dealing with defrauding the United States of America, not the state of California,” Arabian said.
Money orders are often sent as a form of payment to someone selling an item on an auction website or as part of a “secret shopper scam,” the sergeant said. Though they are considered a secure form of payment, he warned citizens to be cautious.
“If somebody receives one in the mail, before they send their merchandise to wherever it is going, they should go to the post office to verify that it is a good money order,” Arabian said. “You won’t be able to tell from looking at the document that it is fraudulent.”
He also urged citizens to be careful of whom they share their personal information with, to shred all documents that contain any identifying information before placing them in the trash and to use a mailbox that is capable of being locked whenever possible.
“Be the best keeper of your own information,” said Detective Bryan Samples, the agent working the Lind case.