LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A Santa Monica man has been arrested after allegedly using a social media application to scam several Southern California victims for money.
Detectives with the Thousand Oaks Police Department arrested 25-year-old Davante Bell, who is a registered sex offender, Sept. 19 on several counts of identity theft, unauthorized computer access with fraud and forgery.
According to police, several teenage victims in Thousand Oaks reported being victims of a check forgery scam in August. Police said the victims believed they were cashing checks as a favor for a family member of a friend they followed on Instagram.
During the investigation, Thousand Oaks financial crimes detectives determined that the person behind the scam was Bell. Police said Bell devised an elaborate Instagram scheme using his account to engage victims with the intent to obtain access to the victims’ account.
Once Bell took control of an Instagram account, police said he posed as the account holder, sending direct messages to victims asking for assistance with cashing a check. When the victims agreed to cash the check, police said Bell would ask for the victim’s cell phone number to further communicate stating that the account holder’s brother-in-law would meet the victims at the bank with the checks.
Police said Bell would pose as the fictitious brother-in-law and provide the victims with fraudulently obtained checks that he them forged before giving them to the victims to cash at their bank.
Once the victims cashed the checks, police said they gave the funds to Bell who then drove away. In the days following the fraudulent deposit, the victims learned that they had suffered a financial loss.
Police have identified eight victims so far — two 17-year-old boys from Thousand Oaks, a 19-year-old man from Thousand Oaks, a 16-year-old girl from Thousand Oaks, a 17-year-old girl from Thousand Oaks, a 19-year-old woman from Los Angeles, a 21-year-old woman from Azuza and a 20-year-old man from West Covina.
Any additional victims are encouraged to come forward and asked to call Detective Paul Ferruzza at 805-494-8231.
Bell remained in custody at the East County Jail on $250,000 bail.