Credit card thefts continue
A ring of Romanians and Middle Europeans is using Tahoe trailheads to cash in on thousands of dollars, authorities said.
While several have been arrested, the rash of credit card burglaries from cars parked at trailheads has continued, according to Placer County Sheriff’s Sgt. Bill Langton.
“They are hitting these people for big cash advances,” Langton said.
Tahoe City resident Tim Hauserman was one of the victims.
“It happened to me twice. Two different times, two different credit cards,” said Hauserman.
Both incidents were when he was hiking or biking on Donner Summit. The first time, he didn’t discover it until the credit card company called up and said “Gee, have you been to Las Vegas lately?” Hauserman said. The thieves had taken $12,000 from the credit card.
The second time, the credit card company called him the day it was stolen because it had denied the attempted charges in Las Vegas.
Most of the burglaries have been around Mount Rose in Washoe County of the Tallac trailhead in El Dorado County; there have been a couple in Placer County at Blackwood Canyon, Langton said. But the thefts are occurring also in Washington state and Oregon.
“Lake Tahoe has been hit pretty hard in the last couple of months,” Langton said.
The burglars open the locked cars and take one or two credit cards from wallets and purses, leaving everything in place and locking the car back up. Most of the victims don’t even realize their cards have been stolen until they get their credit card statement or a call from their credit card company.
Once stolen, the card is used in Las Vegas casinos for cash advances, taking as much as the card allows.
“They are making a lot of money on it. They try to max the card out as quickly as possible,” Langton said, adding that many cards have credit limits of $10,000 to $15,000 or more.
Curiously, the cash transaction in Las Vegas can occur fairly quickly after the theft, some within an hour or two. This makes investigators believe that the credit card information is being transferred electronically and a new credit card and a matching identification are created.
“It’s an organized ring,” Langton said.
Several agencies in the Tahoe Basin and in other states are investigating the crimes, as well as investigators from the credit card companies who are the main victims.
“It’s a multi-state, multi-jurisdictional investigation,” he said.
Several suspects were arrested in Washington, and two more suspects from Romania were arrested a couple of weeks ago in South Lake Tahoe.
However, the crimes are continuing.
With the onset of winter, the thefts might decrease because there are fewer trailheads available for hikers and joggers, Langton said.
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