Police: Bill collector stole identities at AVH | AspenTimes.com

Police: Bill collector stole identities at AVH

A man who used to collect bills for Aspen Valley Hospital and Alpine Medical Group was arrested Wednesday for allegedly stealing the credit card numbers of customers and using them for personal purchases.Andre Jesus Lozano, 41, formerly of 4203 Elk Lane in Basalt, was arrested in Denver after a seven-month investigation by Basalt police.An arrest warrant by Basalt officer Brooke Bishop outlines a complicated identity theft scheme that Lozano allegedly used to victimize at least five customers of the medical facilities as well as a customer of an Aspen T-shirt shop and the Gracy’s consignment store in Aspen.Lozano used the credit card numbers to purchase everything from pirate banners, maps, plates and napkins for his son’s seventh birthday to sheets for a queen-sized bed, police allege.Victim notices odd chargesThe case first came to light on Feb. 8 when an Aspen woman told Bishop that items that she didn’t order were billed to her credit card and shipped to an address in The Villas in Basalt. The woman said she questioned the business that shipped the merchandise, The Home Marketplace, and discovered that a “Jeff Lozano” made the purchases. They supplied her with the cell phone number he gave at the time of the order.Bishop called the number and talked to a man who said he never lived in Basalt and didn’t know about any deliveries there.A second victim emerged a short time later and said several T-shirts had been charged to his account from cheaptees.com and shipped to an A.J. Romias in Basalt. Another unauthorized order was made on his credit card to Kid’s Parties by Lori for the pirate-themed party materials. Dish sets, towels, TV trays and bedding were among other items purchased from Target.com and shipped to Basalt.On Feb. 13, a man identifying himself as John Ross Romias called Bishop and said he was the man she talked to before. He said he knew he was wanted for credit card fraud and that he wanted to “come clean.” He said he had to attend to business in California before he could return to Basalt. He estimated he had used five numbers from credit cards he claimed he found in an Aspen garbage can. He wouldn’t leave contact information.Lozano’s name surfacesMeanwhile, Basalt officers visited the condo where the merchandise was shipped but didn’t find anyone home. They learned from homeowners association records who lived there and identified Andre Lozano as a suspect.When Bishop again interviewed the first victim, she recalled using the same credit card when paying a bill for care at Alpine Medical Group. She said a man named Andre handled her payment. Two other victims who ended up having unauthorized purchases also reported using the same credit cards for payment of services at Alpine Medical Group or AVH.Bishop contacted a supervisor for First Consultant Group, a Carbondale company that was overseeing bill collection and payments for the medical facilities, according to the arrest warrant. The supervisor reported that Lozano said he needed surgery in Grand Junction on Feb. 23, then never returned to work. Lozano had been hired for the collection office through Labor Source, a temporary employment agency in Aspen, according to the warrant.Terry Collins, the chief financial officer for AVH, said Lozano was actually a temporary employee of the hospital. AVH hired the workers, who were overseen by a First Consultant Group supervisor at an office in Carbondale. That office was closed in March, and AVH billing is now handled by First Consultant Group’s service center in Nashville, Tenn., Collins said.Collins said he knew nothing of the alleged identity theft from AVH patients until recently.”We can’t assume he’s guilty until he’s convicted,” he said.Gracy’s helps with arrestBishop’s investigation led her to UPS, where she requested delivery records for the Basalt condo. By painstakingly tracing deliveries back to companies, then finding out how the merchandise was purchased, then learning from credit card companies who possessed the cards, then contacting the cardholders, Bishop learned of at least two other alleged cases of identity theft by Lozano. In one case, evidence indicates Lozano swiped the credit card number of a woman he helped while he worked at The Shirtman, a T-shirt shop in Aspen.A fifth victim said Lozano regularly used a credit card for unauthorized purchases to pay for his wife’s pilates classes at AVH.In a twist to the usual scheme, Lozano allegedly bilked Gracy’s out of funds after selling men’s clothing on consignment there. He was paid by two checks for the consignment items and allegedly used the account number to somehow make unauthorized withdrawals. The transactions went undiscovered by Gracy’s for one month because the computer system was down. When it was discovered, Gracy’s was placed in contact with Bishop, who suspected Lozano had fled Basalt for California or Florida.But Lozano’s alleged greed led to his undoing. Bishop said he called Gracy’s a time or two to see if more consignment items had sold. Workers there assured him they did and asked where to mail the check. Lozano gave them the Denver address.Pitkin County Judge James Boyd signed an arrest warrant on Aug. 10, and police picked Lozano up Wednesday. He was charged with three felony counts of unauthorized use of financial transaction devices, three misdemeanor counts on the same charge, felony theft and felony criminal impersonation. He was held on $15,750 bail.Basalt Police Chief Keith Ikeda and other officers credited Bishop for thorough work on the case.”These identity theft cases are so complicated,” Ikeda said. “You have to establish who is making the identity theft. How they obtained the credit card number and how they used it is difficult to prove.”Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com