HOUSTON Dozens of suspects believed responsible for the theft of checks and money orders from apartment complex lock boxes around Houston have been arrested.
The suspects burglarized numerous drop boxes where rent checks and money orders were deposited before washing and counterfeiting them, according to police. The criminal organization also recruited individuals, some of them homeless, to cash the fraudulent money orders at various check cashing locations.
These were fairly easy targets. It was fairly easy for them to get individuals to help them or cash the documents, said Dale Brown, of the HPD gang division.
Multiple law enforcement agencies including the Houston Police Department, U. S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations conducted concurrent investigations in order to make these arrests.
The ring began in May 2011 and spans four counties. More than 100 complexes were involved and between $1 million and $5 million were stolen.
Why take a chance of sticking someone up with a gun when you can use a piece of paper and get more money, said John Brewer, a representative of the Harris County District Attorney s office.
The arrested suspects are Eddie Lewis, 29, Rita Vela, 28, Dawonna Banks, 23, Richard Carter, 24, William Gaynor, 22, Shamon Watts, 29, Lois Tezeno, 30, Treai Rhone, 30, Domique Powers, 25, Howard Turk, 23, Marisela Estrada, 32, Tameka Norton, 40, Errol Goff, 32, Robert Salinas, 30, Deon Garcia, 35, Cedric Whitehurst, 28, Antonio Whitehurst, 25, and Anthony Anderson, 36. At this time, all suspects are charged with engaging in organized criminal activity.
Investigators are still seeking five additional suspects wanted for their involvement in these crimes. They are Arturo Cherio Villarreal, 29, LaKesha Jackson, 29, Melissa Anders, 25, Lillie Wright, 22, and Ellyn Ustica, 38. Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the remaining wanted suspects is urged to contact any other participating law enforcement agencies or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.