Edmonton police break up identity theft, counterfeiting operation

Four people have been charged after an investigation into an identity theft and counterfeiting operation that police say snared over 130 victims with fake Canadian and United States currency. 

"It's uncommon to find so many ID documents and replicated currency in one place, so that makes it unique," Const. Benjamin Davis said Tuesday. "By removing these stolen identities from the street, we're stopping any future frauds to individuals or businesses."

Early in 2017, Northeast division officers began investigating reports that residents of a house near 121st Avenue and 59th Street were involved in an alleged counterfeiting operation.

On the morning of Feb. 28, officers observed one resident drive away from the house in a stolen Ford F-350. Three other residents drove away in a Ford Escape with a stolen validation tag.

Police stopped both vehicles and arrested the residents.

During a search of the home, police found driver's licences, passports, birth certificates, social insurance cards, healthcare cards, credit cards, bank cards and assorted membership cards. Two of the stolen driver's licences had been altered to create new fake identification, police say.

Police also found stolen mail, cheques, money orders, vehicle access codes, counterfeit $20 and $50 US bills, and Canadian bills in $5, $10 and $20 denominations. They also found counterfeiting materials including printers, scanners, a laptop, external hard drives, memory sticks and a debit terminal.

Four undocumented rifles with ammunition were also found.

He said the cases go back two years and that it will take time to get in touch with all the victims. 

"It's going to be quite the investigation," he said. "We've got to track down each one," he said of the victims.

Some of the fraud cases were the result of a simple thing like someone leaving their wallet in a bar or restaurant. 

"When we're contacting people, they're shocked that we've recovered their ID documents." 

Four people ranging in age from 22 to 59 have been charged, and additional charges are pending, police said.

Fraud on the rise in city

Police say fraud such as identity theft and counterfeiting are on the rise in Edmonton.

From 2015 to 2016, identity theft increased 71 per cent from 52 to 89 reports.

Identify fraud increased 48 per cent from 280 to 413 reports, and counterfeiting rose 169 per cent from 141 to 379 reports, police said.