A law enforcement official who chided two people Wednesday night for smoking on the 5500 block of Carpinteria Avenue stumbled upon a suspected identify theft ring composed of four central California individuals, authorities say.
Around 10:30 p.m., a Sheriff’s deputy informed Squaw Valley residents Renee Ash, 24, and Christopher Hernandez, 37, that public smoking violates Carpinteria city law. The deputy found one suspect was on probation for theft charges out of Fresno County.
Searching a car associated with Ash and Hernandez, the deputy discovered methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia, and “a cache of fraudulent California identification cards, debit cards, and credit cards,” read a Sheriff’s Office press release. The two were booked into County Jail for possession of meth and drug paraphernalia, identity theft, and conspiracy with $50,000 bail each.
Two additional suspects — Wanda Elliott-Ash, 47, and Chad Petros, 31, of Madera County — were arrested at a nearby motel after authorities found “more stolen credit cards, checkbooks, and manufactured fraudulent credit cards” inside the rooms.
Elliot-Ash gave authorities a fake identity in order to hide a felony narcotics and theft warrant from Madera, said the Sheriff’s Office. She was booked into jail for possessing drug paraphernalia and stolen property, providing false identity, conspiracy, identity theft, and the felony warrant. Petros was also arrested, but he released because of a medical issue. His charges are pending.