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Suspect in identity thefts arrested in Rohnert Park

Published: Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 8:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 10, 2012 at 8:17 a.m.

An Oakley woman with a history of identity theft spanning two decades was in custody Sunday on suspicion of opening at least five bank accounts using stolen identities, Sonoma County sheriff's officials said.

Denise Michelle Hankins, also known as Denise Wagoner, 42, was taken into custody Friday at a Rohnert Park hotel where she was found with a briefcase containing stolen IDs, counterfeit checks, forged documents and stolen mail, Sgt. Mike Raasch said. Hankins previously lived in Cotati.

Hankins served time in federal prison for mail and identity theft. She also is under investigation by several other police agencies, including Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Calistoga and Brentwood, Raasch said.

"This is what she has been doing to make money," Raasch said. "She has a criminal history that goes back to 1988. Theft, forgery, similar cases."

Investigators suspect Hankins cast a wide net in her schemes, which appear to involve using stolen checks, credit cards and personal information to open accounts at banks and credit unions from Mountain View to Santa Rosa, Raasch said.

The Sheriff's Office case began Aug. 22, when Hankins posed as a Petaluma woman to open an account at the Citibank in downtown Santa Rosa, Raasch said. Although the woman had ID and checks, the banker was suspicious and put a hold on the account.

His suspicions were confirmed when he called the Petaluma resident, who said she did not open the account. He also called a Graton winery where Hankins claimed to work. Winery staff said she didn't work there.

Surveillance images initially were no help to local detectives, who did not recognize Hankins. Then Raasch received a call from a Calistoga police sergeant who had linked Hankins to a credit card stolen from a city employee, Raasch said.

The tip opened up further links to Hankins, whom detectives now believe stole a box of the Petaluma woman's checks from her mailbox.

Detectives found a trove of stolen and forged documents at her residence in Oakley near Antioch, Raasch said.

Authorities tracked Hankins to Rohnert Park on Friday through a rental car, he said.

Hankins also is suspected of trying to open accounts on two consecutive days at a Rohnert Park credit union with various stolen identities, Raasch said.

She was booked at the Sonoma County Jail on a $100,000 arrest warrant for suspected identity theft, burglary and forgery, Raasch said.

Rohnert Park detectives also arrested Hankins on suspicion of two counts of commercial burglary and two counts of identity theft, he said.

She was being held on $120,000 bail and is set to be arraigned 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Hankins currently is on probation in Alameda County for a prior forgery conviction.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com.

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