Victim of identity theft says suspect used her name to commit crimes

SEATTLE -- Police say they’ve arrested a woman who was creating havoc in her own neighborhood. They believe she was not only stealing mail from her neighbors, but she was also stealing identities, too.

“I wanted to go out and make a citizen's arrest of her,” said Jenny, an identity theft victim who asked us not to use her last name.

She said Thursday night that the past few months have been frustrating.

She said she knew the suspect, Melissa Deanne Gonzales, had stolen her identity and was committing crimes in her name, but she couldn’t do anything.

“She was out there, and I kept getting warrants.”

Jenny said Gonzales was stopped for shoplifting and traffic violations, but it was her name that was put on all those records.

“To have somebody commit crimes with your identity, that’s something that’s very hard to deal with,” she said. “It’s very time-consuming. It’s not just paperwork, you have to go in front of a judge and prove who you are and explain what happened.”

Gonzales was taken into custody Tuesday, and is facing charges of identity theft and criminal impersonation. Police are now investigating whether she may also be responsible for several cases of mail theft in her own Greenwood neighborhood.

“This neighborhood, there’s a lot of people who cruise through who are maybe down on their luck or looking for an opportunity to take something,” said Andrew McColm, who’s been a victim of mail theft. “The mailboxes are right there on the roadside.”

Some neighbors have installed locks on their mailboxes. McColm now uses his work address for many deliveries.

“If I know something important is on the way, I have it sent somewhere else.”

Detectives say it’s a good idea to take precautions like that, because mail theft often leads to identity theft.

“People out there are committing it right and left,” said Myrle Carner of Puget Sound Crime Stoppers. “They’re trying to get your information.”

Jenny said she’s learned to keep a close eye on her personal and financial records.

“You just have to keep checking and rechecking and rechecking and hope nothing else happens.”

Gonzales is expected to appear in court Monday.