21 year-old Davis Nelson Gibson appeared in Missoula Justice Court on Monday charged with theft, forgery, deceptive practices and identity theft, as part of a wide-ranging investigation that has claimed at least 47 victims in the Missoula area.

Senior Deputy Missoula County Attorney Karla Painter said Gibson is the first of at least seven individuals to be arrested who have been named in the affidavit of probable cause in the investigation.

"The only one that is in custody is Davis Gibson," Painter said. "He was arrested after he came into the First Interstate Bank and tried to cash a forged check. The bank was very familiar with him based on prior instances of him doing so. They called law enforcement officers and arrested him."

Painter said this scheme had been going on for several months in the Missoula area.

"Missoula Police Detective Stacey Lear traced it all the way back to March," she said. " It looks like we have five or six people heavily involved. Essentially, they've been going to random locations and stealing mail from people's mailboxes, as well as identifying information and checkbooks from people's motor vehicles. These individuals then used the identities that they had stolen to cash forged checks that they had made."

The other individuals named in Gibson's charging documents include Tamara Smola Darcy Segal, Melinda Grafft, Aaron Grafft, Regina Leistiko, Dawn Rupp and Megan Baughman.

Painter said the individuals named in the affidavit have been interviewed by police and warned their behavior was illegal, but they continued to operate. The losses suffered by the victims of this alleged identity theft ring total many thousands of dollars.

"I am fairly confident that it exceeds $20,000," she said. "Detective Stacey Lear advised that the attempted and actual losses exceed $35,000."

Painter advises anyone in the Missoula area who may believe their mail has been stolen or their identities compromised, should contact Detective Stacey Lear with the Missoula Police Depart at 552-6300.