Cops Make Bust in Elaborate ID Theft Operation

Monday, May 16, 2011  |  Updated 4:29 PM PDT
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Cops Make Bust in Elaborate ID Theft Operation

A Hayward woman has been charged with 22 felony counts in  connection with a large-scale and sophisticated identity theft operation, law enforcement officials said today.
   
Mishel Caviness-Williams, 40, has been charged with seven counts  each of passing forged checks and identity theft; five counts of forging  California driver's licenses; and one count of grand theft.
   
Williams was arraigned Friday and is scheduled to return to  Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday to finalize her legal  representation and possibly enter a plea. She's being held at the Santa Rita  Jail in Dublin in lieu of $325,000 bail.

Oakland police Officer Ryan Goodfellow said officers who served a  search warrant at Williams' home in Hayward found an elaborate operation that  included machines that make false identity cards, credit cards and social  security cards. They also found numerous blank checks, he said.
   
Oakland police spokeswoman Holly Joshi said the identity theft  ring is "the biggest in Oakland Police Department history" and involved "a  one-stop shop for everything."
   
There is only one victim listed in the case so far, but Police Chief Keith Batts said he expects the continuing investigation into the case  will unveil "a lot more victims," saying the charges so far are only "the tip of the iceberg."
   
Goodfellow said authorities found identification information on "thousands of people" when they served the search warrant at Williams' home in the 22000 block of Foothill Boulevard.
   
He said it appears that most of the potential victims are local but some may be from other states.
   
Joshi said police hope that Williams' arrest will protect most of the potential victims whose information was found at the home.
   
"We prevented thousands of people from (becoming victims of) identity theft," she said.
   
Goodfellow said Oakland police, in conjunction with the U.S. Secret Service, began an investigation in late January when a city of Oakland employee told authorities that her checks had been cashed fraudulently.
   
He said Williams is on permanent disability and has a prior felony conviction for welfare fraud.
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