A man and woman who operated a fraud and theft ring in the Coachella Valley pleaded guilty this week to multiple criminal charges and were both immediately handed jail sentences.
Tracy Lynn Cross, 40, of Rancho Mirage and 39-year-old Joe Anthony Loera of Cathedral City each pleaded guilty to more than 30 felony charges, including burglary, forgery, manufacturing and selling government identification documents and personating to obtain credit.
Loera and Cross were immediately sentenced to eight- and six-year county jail terms, respectively -- they aren't eligible for state prison time under the new sentencing realignment legislation, Deputy District Attorney Brian Bolland said.
He said they would serve the majority of their terms in custody and the rest under supervised release.
Cross and Loera stole mail from 12 to 15 people and used the information to create fake checks, credit cards and identification such as driver's licenses. There could be "hundreds" of additional victims, Bolland said.
Loera was charged with 35 felonies and a misdemeanor and Cross with 34 felonies and one misdemeanor -- all the same except an additional burglary charge for Loera. The offenses occurred between October and December 2011, Bolland said.
"Every day they're going somewhere else trying to cash checks or make purchases with other people's information," he said.
Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy Sean Patrick testified at the pair's preliminary hearing last April that investigators traced transactions at retail stores around the Coachella Valley through receipts they found at Cross' residence when serving a search warrant.
Cross and Loera used fictitious checks to buy merchandise, or cashed them at stores including Walmart, Rite Aid and Tuesday Morning. In at least one instance, Cross used a fictitious check to buy items, and Loera returned them at a different store, Patrick testified.
Patrick said Cross and Loera used IDs with their photos and the names of real people. He said the IDs were also found by authorities at Cross's residence.
Bolland said authorities found mail, printers, laminating machines, fake identification documents and computers with check-writing software at the pair's homes.