PORTLAND, Ore. – When identity theft suspect Christina Herrera was arrested, she didn't have to wait long to tell her husband. He was in the next holding cell.
Herrera and Jason Keno were arrested a half-hour apart, and the coincidence helped police and prosecutors link what had appeared to be separate identity theft investigations.
"It was kind of like crook karma that they're both picked up within a half-hour of each other, and we found evidence on each that tied the cases together," Portland Officer Barbara Glass told The Oregonian newspaper. "We're not surprised, never; but we're entertained, always."
A Multnomah County grand jury last week indicted the couple on charges of fraud and aggravated identity theft. Herrera, 36, and Keno, 29, pleaded not guilty.
Police said the investigation began at 11:34 a.m. June 12, when an officer stopped a motorist for failing to use his turn signal. The driver of the rental car presented an Oregon driver's license for Brandon Dean.
"That isn't you," Officer Michael Strawn said. The driver explained that he'd lost a lot of weight because of heavy drug use.
Strawn took him into custody and Glass, an identity theft investigator, got involved. While Strawn ran fingerprints to identify the driver as Jason Keno, Glass called the rental-car company and learned the vehicle had been rented with a Mastercard in the name of Sabrina Joy.
About noon that same day, officers went to a house on a tip that they'd find Herrera, who was wanted on a warrant for forgery. Glass, who knew Herrera from past cases, heard of the arrest on the police radio and asked officers to bring her by. Police found other people's account information in Herrera's purse and a credit card in Sabrina Joy's name.
When police searched the rental car, they found a June 10 room reservation receipt at the Ramada Inn under Brandon Dean's name, the same name on the driver's license Keno had shown police when he was stopped.
Check-out was June 12.
Glass' partner, Officer Dave Staab, called the motel. The room hadn't been cleaned yet, so he raced over to search it. He found evidence of counterfeit Oregon licenses and stolen personal and business checks. Some of the personal information matched names and numbers found in Herrera's purse, police records show.
The couple are accused of renting the car in Joy's name, paying cash to rent a room at a Ramada Inn in another person's name, and then traveling around the Portland area using forged and stolen checks.
Kevin Demer, a deputy district attorney, said the grand jury "laughed out loud" when they heard the case.
"They could not believe the circumstances and the luck of things coming together that way."