Suspects admit they used id theft to steal over $180K in cars

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Year-long investigation led to arrests

PHOENIX - Avoiding identity theft is becoming more difficult because the crimes are becoming more sophisticated.

Never did one Valley woman imagine that a trip to a West Valley convenience store would turn her life upside down. "Jumped out to go get something to drink and not even three minutes later my car was gone."

She found her car that same day but everything else the 41-year old military paramedic had inside was gone.

The crooks took crucial information that landed in the hands of Desiree Canez and Richard Somoza, who the victim would later learn are part of an identity theft ring that extends across the southern border.

Investigators say the operation worked liked this: The suspects would steal someone's personal information then use it to obtain credit cards and to rent or purchase cars. They would then sell those cars to different people with ties to human and drug smugglers.

Canez and Somoza would reportedly make between $300 and $1,000 per car.

Phoenix police detective Craig Walker is one of the lead investigators in the case. He says Canez and Somoza were instructed to purchase or rent smaller more expensive cars such as Infiniti's or Mustangs, which are not typically used by smugglers. He says this case shows why it is so important to protect your personal information.

Detectives finally caught up with Canez and Somoza at a Best Western hotel near the Interstate 17 and Northern after the GPS system inside a car they failed to return to a rental company tracked them down.

Nevertheless, for the victim the nightmare is far from over.