Meth-fueled counterfeiters arrested at SoMa hotel 

A South of Market hotel room was the headquarters of a methamphetamine-fueled counterfeit credit card and driver’s license operation that used stolen personal information, according to police.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office charged three men Thursday with making and counterfeiting credit cards and driver’s licenses after they were arrested in a Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

On Saturday, police were tipped off by security at the hotel at Second and Folsom streets after a custodian noticed partially completed driver’s licenses in the garbage outside the hotel room of defendants John Santner, Edgar Molina and David Miller.

After the custodian alerted hotel security, they called the police.

"Police thought, ‘When do you see partially completed licenses in the garbage?’" Assistant District Attorney Conrad Del Rosario said.

Law enforcement officials were tight-lipped on the details of the operation as the investigation is ongoing. However, the U.S. Secret Service was brought in to support the Police Department, an indication of the magnitude of the operation.

Santner and Molina allegedly used stolen personal information and created counterfeit driver’s licenses for the purpose of committing forgery, according to court documents.

How the defendants gathered the personal information to transfer onto the credit cards and driver’s licenses was the "million-dollar question," Del Rosario said.

"It’s always a catch-up game with law enforcement, and frankly a lot of that evidence is still being investigated," Del Rosario said.

The defendants stayed at the hotel for an undisclosed amount of time, but Del Rosario said Santner allegedly used false information for reservations at the hotel March 25 and Molina allegedly did the same March 2. The two also allegedly were in possession of counterfeiting equipment to make credit cards, and all three were in possession of methamphetamines.

San Francisco police seized embossers, which are used to make something bulge out as numbers on a credit card do and are the "typical type of accoutrements of what we would consider a counterfeit ID plant," said Charles White, the special agent in charge with the Secret Service.

Santner and Molina were arraigned on Monday and are being held on $250,000 bail. Miller, charged with a single count of manufacturing credit cards and bringing a controlled substance into jail, has been released on his own recognizance, Del Rosario said.

dsmith@examiner.com

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