Three men arrested over 'identity theft' organised crime operation

The men were arrested after a six-month Wellington-based investigation. Photo / File
The men were arrested after a six-month Wellington-based investigation. Photo / File

Three men believed to be the leaders of an organised crime operation are facing a raft of charges after the group allegedly obtained more than $400,000 illegally.

The men were arrested in Lower Hutt today after a six-month Wellington-based investigation into similar fraud offences.

A further 30 people from around the country have been charged with fraud offences.

The offenders allegedly forged identity documents including firearms licenses, driver's licenses, passports and 18+ cards. The false documents were then accepted by banks as genuine and as a result sums of money were withdrawn and cheques cashed.

It is alleged about $428,000 was illegally obtained by this organised crime group in 2015. A further $225,000 of potential fraud was estimated to have been prevented by quick-thinking bank staff.

Detective Inspector Grant Wormald said it had been a lengthy and complex investigation because the offending has been occurring across the North Island.

"It has taken a lot of co-ordinated teamwork with the bank fraud investigation teams and Police Document Examiners Office in particular, to bring all the pieces of the puzzle together and to link the hundreds of offences back to those police allege are responsible for making the false identity documents," he said.

Police are advising people to report the loss or theft of any identity documents to police, their bank and their issuing authority immediately, especially if it has a photograph on it.

Police are also advising people to be careful of how they dispose of documents such as bank statements, bills and other documents with private information on them.

"If your mail goes missing, especially if it is from your bank, contact them immediately so they can consider putting an alert on your account," Mr Wormald.

"If you work in the banking sector or anywhere else where you have to check someone's identity using an identity document, take your time.

False identity documents can and do look very real. It is good practice to ask for more than one piece of proof of identity."

Anyone who receives an unsolicited telephone call from people purporting to be from banks, IRD or even courier delivery companies, should be very careful before disclosing any personal information, including where they bank, their home addresses and identity document details, police said.

The men arrested today will appear in Wellington District Court tomorrow morning.

- NZ Herald

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