Bernell Bryan Washington, Sky Manriquez
SACRAMENTO, CA - The majority leader of the Virginia state Senate chuckled when asked if he had used his American Express card to buy $225 worth of medicinal marijuana in Sacramento.
"I'm 70 years old," Sen. Richard Saslaw said by telephone from Virginia. "I'm past the generation that used to do that."
An investigation by a California Highway Patrol officer working with the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force determined Saslaw's identity was stolen and his credit card information was used to make a series of fraudulent purchases in Sacramento, including marijuana purchased from the Fruitridge Health and Wellness Collective.
Saslaw said he knew something was wrong when charges to his American Express card were declined in March. He contacted the Virginia State Police, which then got in touch with the CHP when it detected evidence of fraud in Sacramento.
Saslaw said the same thing happened to two other lawmakers in the Virginia Legislature and he believes information on the magnetic stripes of their credit cards was stolen in a process known as "skimming" while they dined together at a restaurant.
Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force commander Capt. Jim Cooper said investigators were searching for two suspects they say changed Saslaw's home address in Virginia to an apartment on Fulton Avenue in Sacramento. Investigators believe Bernell Bryan Washington, 24, and Sky Manriquez, 21, are staying with friends or relatives in the Fresno area.
Cooper said Washington and Manriquez also bought smoking paraphernalia with the senator's credit card.
Saslaw said this wasn't the first time he's been linked to vices by fraudulent credit card charges. Some years ago, he said, one of his credit cards was stolen to buy pornography. That time, Saslaw said, the thief was arrested because she had the purchases shipped to her home.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net