ID check leads to alleged credit card fraud

Alert police arrest woman at Park Royal

A chance encounter at the mall led West Vancouver police to uncover an alleged credit card fraud and identity theft operation in Vancouver on Dec. 20.

A New Westminster woman has been charged with fraud and possessing stolen property in connection with the investigation.

"Everything's really bizarre in how it came together," said police spokesman Cpl. Fred Harding.

A pair of astute police officers on duty at Park Royal Shopping Centre recognized Heidi Mills, 35, as someone suspected of criminal activity throughout the Lower Mainland.

The two constables were called to the mall at about 7 p.m. to remove a man who had refused to leave a store and was yelling loudly. Not long after they arrived, Mills approached the officers -- she knew the noisy man, and had been with him earlier that day.

"One of the officers immediately recognized who she was," Harding said.

After a search, the constables discovered that Mills was carrying allegedly stolen credit cards and fraudulent identification. They followed her to her pickup truck, where they noticed several newly purchased items that they now believe had been purchased with stolen credit cards.

Later that day, police searched a rooming house in the 3500-block of Kingsway in Vancouver, and found about 20 complete identity packages, including credit cards.

"They found everything to create fraudulent identities such as names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, social insurance numbers and credit cards," said Harding.

Officers seized a laptop computer with a printer attached, which they believe was used to create the phony IDs. They also seized boxes of electronics, toys and DVDs, all allegedly purchased with fraudulent identification.

"This is one of those mixtures of great police work, great timing, and just everything was coming into play," Harding said. "We have removed, hopefully for some time, the kind of person who preys on the vulnerable and those who least expect it, which is you and me."

Mills is also facing charges of unlawful confinement, robbery, assault with a weapon, uttering threats, and breaking and entering, all related to a separate incident in Vancouver.

She made her second appearance on both sets of charges in Vancouver provincial court on Dec. 23. The police investigation into the fraud operation is continuing. Police suspect that other people might have been involved.

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