BYSTANDERS scattered during what police call a “hot arrest” in front of a busy Frankston serviced apartment complex at about 3pm last Sunday (5 February).
Detectives tackled a man, 28, to the ground as he supposedly kept watch beside pillars in the forecourt of the multi-level Nepean Highway building and handcuffed him.
Racing upstairs they raided an apartment and arrested the man’s two alleged accomplices – and man and a woman, both aged 34.
The couple were allegedly in possession of 118 stolen drivers’ licences, credit cards, health care and other identity cards, as well as an imitation Beretta handgun.
Detectives will allege the cards and licences were being used to produce fake identities in an elaborate fraud operation with links to possibly dozens of thefts over the past eight months.
The first arrest warrant in relation to members of the group’s alleged fraudulent activities was issued in June last year.
One of the accused was wanted on six warrants.
Detective Senior Constable Paul Roberts, of the Embona taskforce, said the elaborate identity theft operation began to unravel when Frankston police night shift Acting Sergeant Matt Pearce, doing a routine CBD patrol, spotted a stolen Ford sedan emerging from the building’s car park, early Saturday 4 February.
It was red flagged as having been stolen during an aggravated burglary in Lilydale two days earlier. But, before other police units could arrive on the scene, the car sped out of Frankston.
Detectives studied CCTV footage of the building’s car park and identified the occupants before finding the hotel room had been booked in real names.
A clandestine search found the imitation pistol which police removed before the next day’s raid.
Later, the Ford was found torched in Mulgrave, with the occupants possibly buying another car for cash in the eastern suburbs and driving it back to their apartment to plan their next move.
Detective Roberts said the stolen cards were being used to set up bogus online accounts with banks. Minimum credit lines would then be accessed and money taken from victims’ accounts.
He said it was unclear at this stage how much money had been stolen in this way.