Uncovering the identity trade business

When Brandon Michael rolled up a storage-unit door in Denver on New Year’s Day to sort through the contents he had just purchased at an auction, the young man expected to find the usual items he could later sell on Craigslist or eBay: tools, laptops and furniture. Instead, Michael discovered boxes, filing cabinets and trash bags full of hundreds of U.S. passports, birth certificates, driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and other documents — most stolen within the past two years.

He found St. Anthony Central Hospital records containing dates of birth, Social Security numbers and copies of the driver’s licenses of 150 patients who had been admitted into the emergency room or general surgery.

He found drug paraphernalia, pills and the printer used to make counterfeit documents.

“That’s not right that somebody has all this stuff,” Michael said.

“It’s the mother lode of identity theft,” said Sgt. Ryan McGinty of the Denver police check fraud and forgery unit.

Michael’s discovery has prompted investigations by Denver police, Centura Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.

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