Woman charged, man wanted in identity theft ring spanning Twin Cities metro

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Jennifer Balfanz and Marcus Shelton

Authorities are investigating a string of mail thefts and identity thefts that span the Twin Cities metro, putting many at risk.

Woodbury police have arrested five people in connection with the case but believe there are still others out there. 

Officials say it will likely take investigators months to identify the owners of all the stolen items they recovered. 

“I would estimate they were out there five days a week going through neighborhoods,” said Adam Sack with the Woodbury Police Department.

Two of the five arrested are 28-year-old Jennifer Balfanz and 31-year-old Marcus Shelton. Police say they called their efforts “flagging” and that they even had a t-shirt made. Police had been trying to catch them for a while, but discontinued pursuits for safety reasons. Finally, they were caught - and it appears they had a big forgery operation.

“They would take the checks and they would wash the checks, meaning they would alter the name payable on the checks, and sometimes the amounts. And they would take them to various banks and try to mix up the banks to avoid being detected,” Sack said.

They used stolen vehicles to carry out their crimes, often with stolen dealer plates and altered temporary permits.

On Jan. 2, Jennifer Belfraz was caught stealing mail, but she got away after a short pursuit. Two days later she was spotted again and arrested. While searching for evidence, police say they found a lot more than stolen mail.

“Really, what it was about was identity theft. So the mail theft and the check theft was part of it, but through search warrants on the vehicles we’re recovering notebooks that are full of people’s personal information,” Sack said.

Police also recovered checks, a passport card, credit cards, tax info, tools and a stolen gun. And mail --- a lot of stolen mail.

“It was really all over the place. It was Coon Rapids, Eden Prairie, Minneapolis, Edina, Minnetonka, and these are just off the top of my head to name a few. It would be easier for me to name cities I didn’t find mail in the car,” he said.

Jennifer Belfranz is in custody in Anoka County and is charged with giving a peace officer a false name, escaping from custody, two counts of drug possession, mail theft and additional theft.