Two suspected identity thieves were behind bars after Riverbank Police Detectives investigated an incident arising out of the Verizon Wireless store in Riverbank where stolen identification was used.
According to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, Gillian Joy Stephens, 39, and Dwayne Alton Sterling, 41, entered the Crossroads Shopping Center store on Nov. 19 and Stephens purchased two cell phones and ordered a third phone and told store employees she would return Nov. 30 to pick it up.
Store employees later learned Stephens used someone else’s identity to make the purchase and notified the police.
On Dec. 1 Stephens returned to the store and was subsequently arrested after employees called Riverbank Police Services deputies. During the police contact Stephens gave investigators a false name and also did not have any identification in the name she provided. Further investigation revealed that she had identification cards and credit cards in another name that did not belong to her.
A probation search of Sterling’s Modesto home was conducted as part of the investigation and detectives found one of the phones purchased by Stephens from Nov. 19. When detectives searched Sterling’s car they found several ledgers with handwritten personal identifying information, stolen credit cards, stolen checks, credit card scanners, gift cards and stolen mail from the area.
Detectives served a search warrant on Stephens’ residence in Salida on Dec. 4 and found stolen mail, stolen credit cards, stolen checks, and what appeared to be a washed check printing operation.
Check washing entails a process where mail snatchers erase the ink on a check with chemicals such as acetone or those found in common household cleaning products and then rewrite the checks to themselves, increasing the amount payable by hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
Detectives believe Stephens and Sterling have been very active in the Central Valley stealing people’s identities, washing stolen checks and cashing stolen checks. Stephens had complete identities in her ledgers and, based off her documentation, knew what businesses would cash the stolen checks.
Both Sterling and Stephens were arrested for several felony charges and booked into Stanislaus County Jail.
Detective Jon Gingerich is still in the process of sorting through all of the evidence looking for victims. If you believe you are a victim or have information on this investigation, please contact Detective Gingerich at 209-863-7146.