By Mick Akers
Pahrump Valley Times
The arrests of four local residents in a check fraud and forgery investigation has broadened to include additional arrests and the issuing of warrants for suspects as part of an elaborate identity theft ring, Nye County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday.
The initial arrests also uncovered a previously unknown theft ring that involved juveniles that included stolen firearms, Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said during a press conference.
The investigation, titled “Operation Super Lake,” has identified nearly 200 mostly local victims and businesses, but also individuals and businesses in Clark County.
On March 7, Diane Lee Lake, 36, Christopher Raymond Biddy, 41, and David Barger, 30, were arrested after a search warrant was served on a residence located on Arapahoe Street regarding a suspected check fraud scheme.
According to the sheriff’s office, the investigation began after an initial report was made on Nov. 7 regarding a report of an attempt to cash a fictitious check at a local casino by Lake. Lake reportedly returned that same day and attempted to cash another fictitious check but was refused by the staff after discovering the first check was fraudulent.
March 6, Denico Yelvington was arrested after it was discovered that he was cashing fraudulent checks that had been forged at Lake’s residence.
A search warrant served on March 8 resulted in Jeffrey Lee Gavalas, 54, and Jennie Lee Tedford, 30, being arrested on several charges including forgery and drug possession.
A separate search warrant carried out on March 8 resulted in the arrest of Tia Diane Dircio, 37, on charges related to the ongoing investigation into mail and identity theft as well as check fraud and forgery.
During the course of the identity theft investigation information was obtained that a burglary ring involving juvenile offenders that had stolen several firearms from a local residence police said.
The investigation showed that one of the juveniles received help from Kameron Varden to help conceal the crime from law enforcement. A search warrant was served at Joey Provenza’s home where Varden lived, which resulted in the arrest of Joseph Williams, the only adult home at the time, on drug charges.
Police found a gun in Provenza’s room, and a warrant for his arrest was issued for a felon in possession of a firearm. While a separate warrant was issued for Varden on child abuse, four counts of possession of a stolen firearm, and obstructing a police officer. Two juveniles were also arrested during an additional search.