Fraud suspect arrested Dec. 1 deemed "most significant arrest" by detectives.
The good deeds of silent cowboy star William S. Hart are legendary
in the Santa Clarita Valley, but this week, a different kind of legend was
established by someone with a very similar name.
Los Angeles Police arrested William Spencer Hart, 44, at his
apartment here in town on suspicion of 27 felony charges. including grand theft and
identity theft. He is accused of running a fraudulent credit card operation
that bilked several stores out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in
merchandise over the last two years.
Hart allegedly used many aliases and used stolen credit
cards to make purchases at Costco stores in the Los
Angeles area, racking up $80,000 in merchandise. He
brought his operation a little closer to home, “shopping” at Santa Clarita
Walmart and Sam’s Club stores, where he spent $61,800 on merchandise.
While their names are similar, suspect Hart does not appear to be related to the famous silent screen star who lived here and helped establish a Boy Scout headquarter, donated a theater to the community and willed his Newhall ranch to Los Angeles County for the enjoyment of its citizens.
Detectives said that Hart’s arrest is one of the biggest
cases they’ve seen in a long time.
”This was the most significant arrest and seizure of evidence with the
potential to cause the largest losses we’ve seen in over 15 years,” they said. “The
potential for financial loss was incalculable.”
When officers executed a search warrant Monday, they found
nearly a thousand credit cards in various names, blank cards and embossers, and
card numbers from American Express, Discover and several banks, including Citibank,
Washington Mutual, Chase, Capital One,
Wells Fargo and Bank One. Additionally, they found rental applications from
potential victims, credit card readers, embossers that can re-encode cards and
magnetic strips, blank and counterfeit birth certificates, computers and
computer disks containing names of existing and potential victims.
The day after Hart’s arrest, LAPD detectives served another
search warrant, this time on Hart’s storage locker in the San
Fernando Valley, where they discovered even more material similar
to the evidence seized at his Santa Clarita apartment.
Hart was in Superior Court on Friday for arraignment on 27
felony counts, including 23 counts of identity theft, three counts of grand
theft and one count of unlawful access card activity, related to his possession
and trafficking in card making equipment for the purposes of making counterfeit
He is being held without bail at Men’s Central Jail in
downtown Los Angeles. He returns to court December 15 in Department D of San Fernando Superior Court.