Over the last six months, Kyle Police Department (KPD) has investigated and arrested eight individuals connected with identity fraud cases.
On July 31, KPD received a report of dogs left unattended in a vehicle at the Kyle H-E-B. Upon arrival, officers noticed the temporary license plate on the vehicle as fictitious before discovering that the vehicle was listed as stolen out of Austin.
Police took John Cucheran, 36, and Brandon Pangilinan, 29, both of Cibolo, into custody. Further investigation revealed that there were 59 pieces of identifying information and 51 stolen and altered checks, as well as multiple ledgers of people’s names and social security numbers. Both subjects were charged with Fraudulent Use/Possession of Identifying Information, as well as several narcotics-related charges.
On Sept. 11, KPD arrested Samuel Toth, 28, of Kyle, and Jennifer Serna, 28, of Austin, after an officer on patrol noticed a vehicle in the parking lot of a gas station at 22801 IH-35 displaying a stolen license plate. The investigation resulted in the location of over 50 pieces of stolen mail, 70 pieces of identifying information, 18 stolen credit and/or debit cards and 40 altered or fictitious government documents. Police also discovered another stolen vehicle in Kyle during the follow-up investigation.
Both subjects were charged with Fraudulent Use/Possession of Identifying Information, Fraudulent Use/Possession of Credit Card or Debit Card Information, Theft of Mail and Tampering with Government Records, as well as charges for narcotics and weapons possession.
On Oct. 22, KPD arrested Heather Bean, 38, of Buda, following a suspicious vehicle report at Storage King on 19580 IH-35. Bean was identified and later charged as a suspect in a theft that occurred at the storage units. Officers determined that Bean was operating a vehicle that she had fraudulently obtained from a dealership by using stolen identification. The search found four stolen credit cards, 56 pieces of identifying information and 102 pieces of stolen mail.
Bean was charged with Fraudulent Use/Possession of Identifying Information, Theft of Mail, Burglary of a Building, Possession of a False ID, Fraudulent Use/Possession of Credit Card or Debit Card Information, Theft of property and Unauthorized Use of Vehicle.
Bean, along with a male accomplice named Mitchell Cantrell, 32, of Buda, was also charged with narcotics possession.
On Dec. 2, KPD arrested Victoria Nino, 30, of Austin, after being called to The Strand Apartments for suspicious circumstances. Nino tried to evade officers in her vehicle but was safely apprehended. Upon investigation, police discovered the vehicle had been stolen out of Austin and a search of the vehicle revealed three stolen credit cards and over 30 pieces of stolen mail.
Nino was charged with Burglary of a Vehicle, Forgery, Theft of Mail, Evading Arrest and Driving while Intoxicated, as well as narcotics and weapon possession crimes, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and numerous warrants from other agencies.
On Dec. 28, officers arrested Melissa Moncada, 31, of Austin, after a traffic stop for speeding. A search of the vehicle turned up 250 pieces of stolen mail, 61 stolen checks, 16 credit and/or debit cards and over 50 pieces of identifying information. Moncada was charged with Fraudulent Use/Possession of Identifying Information, Theft of Mail, 16 counts of Credit/Debit Card Abuse and numerous narcotics-related charges.
Moncada had previously been arrested by KPD in 2018 for similar stolen mail and identity theft charges.
KPD’s Criminal Investigations Division is working on notifying all victims of the frauds and thefts and arranging for items to be returned to their rightful owners.“
“I would like to take the time to recognize these officers for their diligent work,” KPD Chief Jeff Barnett said. “Catching these perpetrators is often time-consuming and difficult work, but it is important because the victims of these crimes are often numerous and have to deal with the impacts for years down the line. We hope this can help start to set things right for those affected.”
KPD encourages residents to take important steps to actively protect themselves from becoming a victim of identity theft:
• Limit the personal financial information in your purse or wallet and keep Social Security cards at home. • Carry only the credit and bank cards you need.
• Shred financial documents when they are no longer needed.
• Don’t give out personal information unless you are sure you are dealing with a trusted individual, or a legitimate representative for essential governmental or business purposes.
• Use two-factor authentication for online security, where possible.
• Use a password manager and/or strong passwords, including a mixture of capital letters, numbers, and symbols, and change passwords frequently.
• Check bank or credit statements regularly.
• Check credit reports regularly.
• Don’t click on links sent in unsolicited email.
• Be careful using social network platforms — for example, do not make your birth date or Social Security number readily available.
For more information on ways to prevent identity theft, go to www.usa.gov/identity-theft.