People in and around Laurens County might not know they are victims of identity theft.
The Twiggs County Sheriff's Office arrested two Dublin residents Sunday night and uncovered hundreds of pieces of evidence in crimes dating back to about April.
Matthew George Hamilton, 29, and Crystal Dee Watson, 38, both of Dublin, face up to 500 counts of identity theft-related charges based on items seized this week.
Twiggs County sheriff’s deputies were called to the Suburban Inn motel on Ga. 96 at Interstate 16 for a domestic disturbance Sunday night, Sheriff Darren Mitchum said during a Wednesday news conference.
Hamilton was coming out of the room with a pink bag and "became argumentative" and tried to run away, Mitchum said.
Deputies took him into custody and found a gun on Hamilton, who is a convicted felon, the sheriff said.
Officers found methamphetamine, suspected crack cocaine and marijuana in the car with the couple who also face charges of possession of illegal narcotics, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, financial card theft, theft by receiving stolen property, and obstruction or hindering law enforcement officers, according to the arrest report. Hamilton also is charged with a parole violation and giving false information for giving deputies the wrong name.
Watson had credit cards that did not belong to her and a search of her silver Mercury Marquis uncovered nearly 300 more stolen items, including mail, checks, financial cards and money orders in the trunk, Mitchum said.
Deputies got a search warrant Tuesday for Watson's home and found about 200 additional items including notebooks used to keep track of the victims and their Social Security and financial account numbers, Mitchm said.
Most of the thefts occurred in the Dublin, Laurens County, area and involved mailboxes and some vehicle break-ins, the sheriff said. The U.S. Postal Service is sending letters to all residents affected.
"One gentleman, his had been obviously broken into so many times he actually put a camera on his mailbox," Mitchum said. "Some of his stuff is in this pile."
Investigators are trying to determine if the man has surveillance images of the couple at that location, Mitchum said.
They are also working with Dublin police and the Laurens County Sheriff's Office to identify victims.
It could be some time yet before people realize they are victims of identity theft, although some people have discovered credit card purchases they did not make.
Mitchum said he could not yet put a dollar amount on the fraudulent charges.
He said identity theft cases can be difficult to solve but credited his investigators for busting this operation.
“I’m glad to actually hold somebody accountable for it because it ruins a lot of peoples' lives,” he said.