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12 arrested, charged with organized criminal activity

Group allegedly is responsible for $500K worth of fraud, authorities say

GUADALUPE COUNTY, Texas – After a six-month investigation, 12 people on Tuesday were arrested and charged with the offense of engaging in organized criminal activity, authorities said. 

The arrests were announced by the Tri-County Fraud Task Force, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Guadalupe County Attorney’s Office.

The people allegedly stole checks and other identifying information from U.S. Mail depositories in and around Comal, Bexar and Guadalupe counties in the spring of 2018, according to authorities.

The people arrested were Brandon Stanush, Donelle Mitchell, Austin Orozco, Zachary Diaz, Carolyn Samano, Fallon Both, Jordan Keeton, Eleaza Mead, Nichole Cortez, Bret Stuckey, Efrain Charles and Patrick Samaniego.

Utilizing the stolen information, the defendants allegedly created, and subsequently used, fraudulent driver licenses to negotiate forged checks at various businesses along the IH 35 Corridor, authorities said.

These defendants allegedly are responsible for over $40,000 worth of damage to U.S. Postal Service property and over $500,000 worth of fraud against businesses and individuals, including a large number of elderly victims, authorities said.

Other crimes, such as auto theft and possession of narcotics, were found during this investigation, according to authorities.