Arrests made in identity theft cases

Two people have been arrested during the last week in separate identity-theft cases in Merced and Chowchilla, law enforcement officials reported.

Christine Melton, of Merced, was jailed in connection with a “small identity-theft ring” believed to be operating out of Merced and Stanislaus counties, as well as the Bay Area, Capt. Tom Trindad told the Sun-Star.

“It’s very likely more arrests will be coming in the future,” Trindad said.

Melton, 49, was arrested Wednesday morning at her home in the 500 block of Santa Clara Street. Officers with the Merced Police Department’s High-Tech Crimes Unit searched Melton’s home, seizing equipment allegedly used to steal access card information, including “skimming” devices and “power of sales” boxes, police said in a news release.

“In addition, detectives found mail and credit cards belonging to different people who did not live at the house,” police said in the statement. “Detectives also recovered stolen property from a Walgreens store.”

Investigators learned “a group of individuals” were stealing information from Save Mart gift cards, police said.

Melton was booked into the Merced County Jail on suspicion of burglary, forgery, theft of access cards and possession of stolen property.

Police are asking anyone with any information regarding this incident to contact Detective Dan Dabney at (209) 388-7719, or the Merced Police Department Tipster Line at (209) 385-4725. The public can send anonymous text messages to police by dialing “TIP411” (847411) and including the word “ComVIP” as the keyword in the message.

In Chowchilla, a 29-year-old woman was booked May 6 into the Madera County Jail in connection with nearly a dozen checks allegedly stolen from a 69-year-old victim, the Madera County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.

Natalie Hernandez of Chowchilla is accused of cashing at least 10 checks, totaling $2,754.52, between May 22 and May 31 while the victim, whose name was not released, was out of town, the Sheriff’s Department said.

Hernandez remained behind bars Thursday in lieu of $45,000 bail on suspicion of identity theft, spokeswoman Erica Stuart said.

The allegedly stolen checks came from a new box of checks the victim never received, deputies said.

Investigators said they believe others may be involved.

Anyone who may have information regarding theft of checks in Chowchilla is urged to call the Madera County Sheriff’s Office at 559-765-7770.