Foreign national held on $1 million bond in identity theft - KCTV5

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Foreign national held on $1 million bond in identity theft case

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JOHNSON COUNTY, KS (KCTV) -

A foreign national is being held on a $1 million bond after he is accused of being part of a major case of stealing identities.

The theft investigation includes dozens of blank credit cards, about $80,000 in cash and an unknown number of possible victims.

The 24-year-old suspect, Jerad Santiapillai, is from Canada. He came to the United States and stayed at the Lenexa Inn, where authorities say they found evidence that could put Santiapillai behind bars for a long time.

Sources tell us federal agents first spotted Santiapillai Tuesday near 95th and Antioch. They say he was withdrawing money from several banks. Agents stopped and questioned him, and during the questioning, found several credit cards with no numbers or names.

"I think it's very disconcerting to see that somebody was in possession of so many tools of the trade, ready to defraud so many people and financial institutions of their money, said retired FBI Special Agent Michael Tabman.

After the questioning, agents went to Santiapillai's room at the Lenexa Inn. There, they found dozens more blank credit cards, the cash, and a re-encoder, which is a machine used to create fake cards with stolen identities.

Tabman said identity theft has come a long way.

"Every advancement we make with technology, credit cards, debit cards, is another way for someone to defraud us. Not that we shouldn't use these tools, but we need to be careful and alert to our own accounts and watch out for the fraud," Tabman shared with KCTV5 News.

Santiapillai has been charged with 14 counts of theft and identity theft.

Despite his high bond, a foreigner is working to pay the bond, according to KCTV5 sources.

Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Agency are also involved, but officials aren't saying why.

"It seems highly unlikely that DEA just stumbled upon someone at an ATM machine, so I would think this was part of a bigger investigation," said Tabman.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe discussed few specifics of the case. He said investigators are working to determine whether there are any victims in the Kansas City area.

He said organized crime use to focus on drugs, gambling and liquor, but he said the focus now is accessing financial information and fraud.

He said catching the crooks is difficult.

"A lot of penetration and fraud is occurring outside the borders of the U.S.," Howe said.

KCTV5's DeAnn Smith and Sandra Olivas contributed to this report.

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