Five people were arrested by Santa Barbara Sheriff’s deputies this week suspected of using fake credit cards — made with personal information taken from identity theft victims — to withdraw cash and gamble at the Chumash Casino. All five suspects are from the Los Angeles area.
At around 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, reported Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Drew Sugars, deputies responded to the casino after security personnel there detained a man and woman they suspected of credit card fraud. Detectives eventually determined San Clemente resident Thomas Lamb, 46, and Sherman Oaks resident Cynthia Borjas, 36, were allegedly using fake credit cards in their possession to withdraw money.
Both were booked into County Jail on various charges including criminal conspiracy and commercial burglary. Lamb’s bail was set at $500,000 after authorities learned he is on probation out of San Diego County for identity theft. Borjas is being held without bail for parole violation.
Over the course of their continued investigation, said Sugars, detectives learned of three additional suspects seen with Lamb and Borjas. On Wednesday, deputies contacted 42-year-old Ety Siauw of Venice, 45-year-old Walter Harrsch of Van Nuys, and 46-year-old Michael West of Los Angeles in a car at a gas station near the Chumash Casino.
In the car, detectives reportedly found various items used to make fraudulent credit cards as well as paperwork with personal information of various identity theft victims. They also found heroin, meth, and several thousand dollars in cash.
Siauw, Harrsch, and West were arrested and booked into the County Jail on charges including criminal conspiracy, use of a fraudulent credit card, identity theft, and possession of card-making machinery. West’s bail was set at $50,000. Harrsch is being held without bail due to parole violation. Siauw is being held without bail because of an immigration detainer.
The Sheriff’s Department provided the following tips on how to avoid becoming an identity theft victim:
— Use fewer credit cards
— Don’t carry all of your cards with you
— Carefully review your monthly statement for inaccuracies
— Report billing errors and lost or stolen cards to your credit card issuer immediately
— Keep a list of all credit cards, account numbers, and expiration dates so you can notify creditors quickly
— Never give personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call
— Shred all preapproved credit card offers, documents, and receipts before putting them in the trash