DENVER (CBS4) – Authorities have busted an identity theft ring that they say cast a wide net and caught the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders organization among its victims.
Members of the ring would allegedly steal checks and other documents from mailboxes, create phony checks and cash them to buy methamphetamine and other items.
Rackeetering is among the charges described in the grand jury indictment obtained by the Denver District Attorney’s office. Their case includes 75 counts, 270 victims and 10 suspects.
The ring is said to have operated out of a home in Arvada which was nicknamed the “Hobbit Hole.” The stolen documents were said to be altered there using computers and printers to create counterfeit checks and IDs.
Stolen items not used were believed to burned in a fireplace. Meth was also allegedly used in the basement of the location.
A Denver Broncos spokesman told CBS4 the identity of a staff member with the cheerleaders was compromised as part of the ring. A cheerleaders organization check was apparently mailed out and phony checks were made from it. The spokesman said the matter as it pertains to the cheerleaders has been resolved by authorities.
“It just so happened that among all the pieces of mail over the course of time that they are alleged to have stolen, one of those pieces of mail contained a check from the Denver Broncos Cheerleaders,” Lynn Kimbrough with the district attorney’s office said.
People who live close to the Arvada home told CBS4 they were not surprised to hear of the charges.
“I just remember the day the SWAT team was over there and before I came outside they took a kid that lived in the basement to jail and then they handcuffed somebody else,” Sharon Fisher said.
Two of the suspects are charged with violating Colorado’s Organized Crime Control Act, otherwise known as racketeering. They are Christopher Jason Bahl, 35, and Gary Dean Crowther, 30.
Both of them are already in custody on unrelated charges. Their grandfather, who also lived in the home, talked with CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger.
“Neither one of them worked, they never left the basement,” he told Sallinger. “In fact they lived down there all the time.”
Eight others are also facing charges.
Also among the victims is St. Anthony Hospital. Its helicopter was used to transport one of those charged who had been injured. The suspect was worried about getting arrested and posed as someone else, leaving a bill of $63,000.