RIPON -- The largest identity theft case in San Joaquin County leads to years-long prison sentences for three people, the District Attorney’s Office says at least 400 people in Elk Grove, Manteca and Stockton were victimized. Investigators in Ripon say the prosecution was possible because of a vigilant store clerk.
Investigators say the clerk was ringing up a customer when she noticed something was off about a woman’s purchase. The clerk called police which led them to bags of stolen mail.
An attempt to buy a gift card and a large amount of groceries with a check at the Ripon Save Mart last October led investigators to the biggest identity theft case they say they’ve ever handled.
And it’s all thanks to a clerk’s watchful eye.
“Without her this case never would have cracked. She’s the entire reason why the police were called and why they were able to do their job,” said Katherine Mahood, Deputy District Attorney for San Joaquin County.
Mahood says a clerk immediately called police officers with a description of a woman identified as Jeanne Macias Mendoza and the truck she rode away in.
“Wonderful that you have somebody that is so dedicated, so on the ball,” Mahood stated.
Investigators say Mendoza, along with Lom Nguyen and Kimi Matsuno, all from Stockton, were stopped by officers in a U-Haul truck near the grocery store.
Along with the suspects, bags of stolen mail, boxes of looted packages; at least a thousand pieces of evidence were discovered.
“San Joaquin is not a place you should come and commit this crime. You should never commit this crime because you’re taking from individuals, you’re stealing from hard working Americans,” said Tori Verber-Salazar, San Joaquin District Attorney.
Mahood says 400 people from Elk Grove, Manteca and Stockton were victimized by the trio; who have all been sentenced to at least five years in prison.
“Nice to see that these types of sentences are being handed down which again leads to that preventative measure that where these criminals are looking at it, like ‘you know what, maybe this is not something we should be doing’,” said Kevin Rho, Assistant Inspector for USPS.
Investigators added the thieves used a counterfeit key to steal mail. They also advised people to check mail daily, lock your doors and don’t leave mail in the car. This will help prevent identity theft.