A Temecula man faced charges of stealing identities and writing thousands of dollars worth of phony checks.
Rommel Mercado Balingit, 39, was arrested Feb. 8 on suspicion of felony identity theft to steal money or property. He was released on $5,000.
The suspect allegedly opened a bank account online using the name, birth date, driver’s license and social security number of a Santa Cruz resident. He used the address of a mailbox at the Postal Annex on Winchester Road as his home address, according to an affidavit.
A fraud control official with the bank, Addison Avenue Credit Union, tracked down the man whose identity the suspect stole in December and asked whether he opened that account. He said no, and the victim filed a police report with the Santa Cruz police, according to Riverside County sheriff’s Detective James Dickey.
Balingit allegedly made 14 deposits to the account totaling $6,785 in phony or stolen checks from another victim. He then spent the money by making ATM withdrawals and at stores at several locations in Temecula. The bank then notified the Temecula Police Department, according to the detective.
Investigators searched the mailbox at the Postal Annex and found mail addressed to five people, including the victim under whose name he opened the account and the victim from whom he pilfered checks. They got the rental contract from the business and found it was rented to Balingit.
The bank’s fraud control official contacted the Temecula Police Department again on Feb. 3 saying somebody opened another online checking account from the same ISP address, but under a different name. This time, the suspect gave his home address as the Postal Annex on Benton Road in Winchester. The suspect then made seven deposits totaling $3,431, but the bank returned them unpaid, according to the affidavit.
Detectives found the ISP address belonged to Verizon. They searched the company’s records and found the subscriber was a man living in the 42000 block of Vandamere Court in Temecula. Detectives visited the home on Feb. 7, which led to Balingit, who was arrested the next day, according to jail records.