Ex-cons accused of running ID theft ring

December 17, 2010 8:25:23 PM PST
With the arrest of two men, investigators say they have uncovered a major, statewide identity theft ring. Authorities say it wasn't hard for the two suspects to find their victims.

Both men already face state charges, but Geoffrey Wentzel had three federal charges added to the list Friday and now is being held at the federal detention center in downtown Houston. Police say the two used Wentzel's family business in Kingwood to find some of their victims.

Wentzel didn't answer any questions; instead, he curled up in the fetal position to avoid our camera. Federal postal agents and Houston police arrested him at a gas station in Kingwood, and officers added more evidence to their already large file.

"Two PayPal accounts, looks like five different bank accounts," said Officer George Hickey with the HPD Special Operations Division.

Police say Wentzel and Richard Conatser, both ex-cons who know each other from prison, ran a far-reaching identity theft ring. They would steal mail, according to investigators, fill out other people's credit applications to obtain credit, then buy things and sell them on eBay for profit.

Their list of victims is a long one, authorities say.

"It spans from Corpus Christi to Dallas, from San Antonio into East Texas," Hickey said.

Some of those victims were customers of Wentzel's own mother, police say. She owns Kingwood Air Conditioning and Heating. He worked there and police say would steal customer information to create fraudulent credit.

We went his mother's business to request an interview with anyone who knows about the alleged scheme, but the business declined.

This was the second time since October Wentzel has been arrested. According to investigators, back then they found all the tools to make fake IDs and credit cards inside his Kingwood home.

On Friday, no one was around his house, and his car seats were empty.

The family man's actions, police say, have made for plenty of problems for plenty of people.

"Everyone out there watching who's ever been a victim, they will understand," Hickey said.

Police say while the investigation continues, there's no indication that anyone else at Kingwood Air Conditioning and Heating was involved.

Wentzel's federal charges include conspiracy, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.


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