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Law enforcement shuts down credit card operation

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On Thursday, June 23, the Delta County Sheriff's Office with the assistance of the Delta Police Department, Cedaredge Police and multiple federal agencies, executed five search warrants in Delta and Mesa counties, four of which were executed in the Delta, Eckert and Cedaredge areas. The search warrants were a culmination of a cooperative investigation between local agencies and DEA into a group of Cuban nationals that were involved in credit card fraud and cultivation of illegal marijuana in both counties.

In March and April, the Delta County Sheriff's Office began receiving multiple complaints concerning credit card fraud. Citizens reported that someone had accessed their credit card information to make purchases as far as Florida.

Delta County Sheriff's Office investigators began compiling all the information. Due to the sheer volume of complaints, they met with other investigators throughout the region to share information.

The Cedaredge Police Department was able to obtain a computer and computer-related equipment that led to a list of close to 500 names with credit card information. In June investigators contacted every bank in Delta County with that information, requesting they notify their customers of the potential misuse of their credit card information. Cardholders were advised to keep an eye on their statements and report any fraudulent purchases.

Also in June, sheriff's investigators located a "skimmer" in a gas pump in the Delta area. The "skimmer" is a homemade device utilized to capture credit card information as you pay for fuel with a credit card. Suspect information was also obtained and was utilized in the search warrants for these residences.

One individual was arrested. Joaquin Enriqu Cancio Morales, 39, is being held on a $5,000 cash only bond. He is charged with unauthorized use of a financial transaction device, a misdemeanor, and felony charges of identity theft and criminal possession of a transaction device.

DEA seized all marijuana and marijuana-related equipment located during the searches. Further arrests are pending as the investigation continues.

The sheriff's office asks that everyone keep a close eye on their credit card statements and report any questionable purchases to their credit card company, bank and local law enforcement.

When marijuana was legalized in Colorado, Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee said law enforcement officials statewide were concerned the "criminal element" would be drawn to Colorado. In this case, he said, the criminal element approaches the level of organized crime.

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