PALMDALE – A 26-year-old man busted for purchasing a car with a stolen, doctored check has been linked to a check washing and identity theft scheme that bilked more than $20,000 from at least seven victims, authorities said.
Ryan Lasko was arrested last week after a Palmdale detective spotted him driving around town in a stolen vehicle, according to Lt. Cory Kennedy of the Palmdale Station.
The Nissan Milan was reported stolen because Lasko allegedly used a bogus $13,000 check to purchase the vehicle from Antelope Valley Nissan on May 24, Kennedy said.
“The check appeared to have been altered, what we like to call ‘washing,’” Kennedy said.
Check washing is when criminals steal checks, use chemicals to erase details on the checks, and then rewrite the checks to themselves for criminal purposes.
Lasko’s washed check made it past the AV Nissan sales team, but the dealership’s finance department caught the error and reported the fraudulent purchase to the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station, Kennedy said. Authorities caught up to Lasko and the stolen vehicle on May 30.
“In the car, we find numerous pieces of information – social security numbers, license numbers, routing numbers, banking numbers – so obviously he’s involved in bank fraud,” Kennedy said.
A makeshift “skimming” device was also found inside the vehicle, Kennedy added.
“That’s a device that is inserted into an ATM… when someone uses their card it collects the information and transfers it, so we believe he’s also involved in identity theft” Kennedy said.
“Right now we have seven confirmed identify theft victims or forgery victims attributed to Mr. Lasko, and we’re still working on that,” Kennedy said.
Detectives believe Lasko stole checks from at least one local mailbox for check washing purposes, and swiped another set of checks from a Palmdale home, Kennedy said.
With the exception of the car purchase, nearly all of the bogus checks were made out to cash, with Lasko racking up more than $20,000 in transactions that authorities are aware of, Kennedy said.
On Monday (June 3), Lasko was charged with 16 felony counts, including burglary, grand theft auto, fraud, several counts of identity theft and felony possession of a controlled substance, according to court records.
Lasko pleaded not guilty to all charges, and he is due back in court on June 10 for a preliminary hearing. Lasko remains jailed on $60,000 bail.
Anyone with information on this incident is urged to contact Lt. Corry Kennedy at the Palmdale Sheriff’s Station at 661-272-2506.