The Ceres couple accused in October of selling fraudulent theme park tickets was arrested and charged on 41 criminal charges on Wednesday evening.
Ceres Police detectives investigated the allegations over the course of several months and located eight more victims from throughout California. Detectives arrested the couple at their home in the 1800 block of Evans Road. The 41 criminal charges include first- and second-degree burglary, making criminal threats, passing a fictitious bill, theft, grand theft, and passing false tickets between late 2012 and October of 2013.
Detectives say that Israel Vasquez and Jessica Melendez scammed over $20,000 from numerous persons by selling fake tickets through Craigslist ads. Victims allegedly paid $250 to $625 to purchase what turned out to be copies of legitimate Disneyland tickets originally bought by Melendez and Vasquez from various AAA offices with bad checks. The investigation determined that one of the victims was sold invalid Six Flags Magic Mountain tickets by the couple.
Israel Vasquez, 32, was released on bail and is also facing charges in Tulare County for similar crimes.
Jessica Melendez, 33, of Ceres, is still in custody on her charges and an immigration detainer to determine if she needs to be deported back to Mexico.
Police were made aware of the scam on Oct. 1 by a newspaper reporter who had been contacted by a female victim from Las Vegas. The victim, Robin Tuitama, went to the Modesto Bee when she found that the tickets she bought from Melendez were invalid when she tried using them at Magic Mountain in Valencia. Information describing a similar situation involving Melendez was also found to be circulating online via social media.
Detectives dug into police records and noted that Melendez's home was where officers made contact on May 7, 2013 to investigate a civil matter involving alleged fake Disneyland tickets that had been sold by Vasquez on Craigslist. A police dispatcher recalled another incident from May 20, 2013 where officers took a second report in the dispute over a purchase of invalid Disneyland tickets from Vasquez.
Shortly after the initial investigation in October, police arrested both on active warrants. Vasquez was cited for an outstanding School Attendance Review Board truancy warrant. Melendez was booked at the Stanislaus County Public Safety Center on a misdemeanor, no bail Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department AWP warrant. A probation search of the home resulted in seizure of 17 printed Disneyland tickets.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Houston and District Attorney Birgit Fladager gave the go-ahead to prosecute the couple on various cases in Stanislaus County since it was, as Detective Venn described, "one continuous act of deception."
Venn said that it's possible that the couple scammed more victims who have yet to come forward so Disneyland has been contacted in an effort determine how many times visitors tried to use fraudulent tickets sold by the couple. Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to contact Detective Darren Venn at 538-5616 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Tips may also be anonymously reported to the Stanislaus Area Crime Stoppers at 1-866-60-CRIME or by texting tips to the number 274637 with the wording TIP704 in the text.