Detectives investigating the theft of a package from a Rancho Palos Verdes porch have arrested a San Pedro man whose home was filled with stolen merchandise, looted mail from across Southern California, and computers and tools to commit identity theft, deputies said Thursday.
Michael Wieczorek, 42, also is suspected of taking a package of white pajamas from a porch, rewrapping them and putting them under his Christmas tree. The present read: "To: Mom, Love: Michael."
Detectives opened an investigation on Wednesday when someone stole a delivered package from outside a Rancho Palos Verdes home, Lomita sheriff's Sgt. Mark Moffett said.
After identifying Wieczorek as a suspect, deputies went to his home, where they discovered what they believed to be an elaborate identity theft operation.
"Stolen mail was recovered from victims whose addresses were from the cities of Rolling Hills Estates, Torrance, Palos Verdes Estates, San Pedro, Los Angeles, Carson, Long Beach, Lakewood, Redlands, Temecula, Auburn, Murrieta and Bellevue, Wash.," Moffett said. "Especially disturbing was the numerous Christmas cards recovered among the stolen mail."
Wieczorek possessed drugs, credit cards and identification that did not belong to him, along with a Kershaw knife that was stolen from a residence on Nancy Road in Rancho Palos Verdes, Moffett said.
Investigators also recovered four computers, credit card reading devices, counterfeit California driver's licenses, altered checks and fraudulent income tax forms. Detectives believe Wieczorek was filing false tax returns using his victims' identities to steal their tax returns, Moffett said.
Stolen property valued in the thousands of dollars included vacuum cleaners, jewelry, toys, a pellet rifle, blenders, clothing and cookware.
"The funny part is the pajamas," Moffett said.
The pajamas were removed from the same Nancy Road porch where the knife was stolen, Moffett said.
Deputies checked the wrapped gifts under Wieczorek's Christmas tree and found them.
"The first one we get is that one: `To mom, from Michael,"' Moffett said. "He stole it and in the same day, he gifted it for his mother."
Moffett said Wieczorek had the means to make fake identifications and driver's licenses, wash checks and make credit cards.
"They had an elaborate operation going on," Moffett said.
Wieczorek, arrested on suspicion of identity theft and possession of stolen property, was released from custody after posting $20,000 bail. He is scheduled to appear at Torrance court on Jan. 10.
Deputies will show the recovered property for potential victims from noon to 2 p.m. today at the Lomita sheriff's station. For more information, contact detectives at 310-539-1661.