Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar, Jefferson County District Attorney Dave Thomas, and Arvada Police Chief Ron Sloan announced that 11 individuals have been indicted in connection with an alleged $295,000 counterfeit cashiers check/car theft ring operating in the Denver metropolitan area.
The Arvada Police Department, after a lengthy investigation of various individuals allegedly associated with the theft ring, referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office for possible action, which subsequently obtained the indictment from the statewide grand jury on April 23. The indictment was sealed pending location and apprehension of the defendants.
The defendants are variously charged with 64 counts of criminal activity, including organized criminal activity (racketeering, a class 2 felony), theft (class 3 and 4 felonies), forgery (class 5 felony), offering a false instrument (class 5 felony), motor vehicle theft (class 4 felony), and conspiracy to commit theft and forgery (class 4 felony). The indictment was issued recently but was only unsealed last Wednesday, pending the apprehension of the those indicted.
The defendants are Ronald Lee Jones, aka “Romeo”, age 27; Craig D. Hassler, aka “Frank”, age 54; Christina Pena, aka Christina Vialpando, age 28; Lynn Marie Lay, aka Lynn Callahan, age 27; Paul F. Arzberger, aka “Peanut”, age 23; Candice Marie Hernandez, age 24; Regina Renee Morena-Padilla, age 27; Azaih Leeray Pacheco, aka “Ace”, age 29; Jorge Omar Valdez, aka Jose Valdez, age 25; David Pasillas, aka “Baby G”, age 23; and Cindee Denison, age 20. All were taken into custody, and/or released on bond with the exception of Candice Hernandez. Any persons with information on the whereabouts of Ms. Hernandez are encouraged to call (720) 748-5018.
The State alleges that throughout 2003, Ronald “Romeo” Jones directly participated in and directed fellow defendants in the counterfeiting of approximately $295,000 worth of US Bank cashiers checks, which were used to obtain possession of 20 vehicles, a majority of them SUVs, a truck trailer, and two jet skis. Defendants Hassler and Pena are the alleged counterfeit check generators.
Once the vehicles were taken and title signed over, it is alleged that some of the defendants obtained titles in their own names and then sold the vehicles to car dealers, who in turn sold them to customers. In two cases, when law enforcement got too close to uncovering the operation, the vehicles were burned.
The indictment alleges that those involved in the thefts of the vehicles typically responded to a newspaper ad placed by the vehicle owners and, following a meeting and inspection or test drive of the vehicle, tendered a counterfeit cashiers check as payment. The vehicle owners would learn upon verifying with the bank or attempting to cash the checks that they were counterfeit checks. All but one of the alleged thefts occurred in Denver, Aurora, Arvada, Westminster, and Thornton.
The defendants will be tried in Jefferson County District Court. Assistant Attorney General Marleen Langfield will be designated as a special deputy district attorney to prosecute the cases through the District Attorney Thomas’ office.
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