IRVINE, CA (December 5, 2012): On December 5, 2012, at approximately 2:30 a.m., an Irvine police officer observed a speeding vehicle with paper license plates on Lake Forest Drive. The vehicle disappeared into a nearby residential area but was located a short time later parked in the driveway of a home. The occupants, Michael Harding (4-27-1978) and two female adult passengers were ducked down in the vehicle with the lights off. As the officer approached the vehicle, Harding started the car and rapidly backed out of the driveway. The vehicle was abandoned in another driveway a short distance away and was located unoccupied.
Officers responding to assist located one of the females in the backyard of an adjacent residence. That female was arrested and later released on a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia. The second female was located at a nearby bus stop by an Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy who had responded to assist with the area search. She was detained but later released with no charges pending.
The abandoned Mercedes was reported stolen in Panorama City in September, 2012. A search of the car turned up more than a dozen California drivers’ licenses and 60 credit cards from approximately 20 victims. Additionally, officers found burglary tools and false identifications. An Irvine detective recognized the photograph on one of the fake ID’s as Harding, a suspect of a vehicle theft from the area of Sand Canyon and the I405 in September, 2012. Harding was identified as a suspect in the September case after using a credit card that was in the vehicle when it was stolen.
Later in the afternoon, Harding was located by detectives in a shopping center in the area of Shady Canyon and the I405, the same general area where he is suspected of the September vehicle theft. At approximately 3:30 p.m., detectives contacted Harding and another of his associates, James Deroze (7-1-1985) in the shopping center. Deroze, a parolee, was found in possession of a fraudulent government document (DMV Identification) and booked into the Orange County Jail where he is being held in lieu of $20,000 jail.
Harding was arrested for vehicle theft, vehicle burglary, commercial burglary, possession of stolen property, resisting arrest, fraudulent use of a credit card and possession of burglary tools. Additionally, he is being held for two outstanding arrest warrants totaling $250,000 for burglaries committed in San Diego County.
Detectives believe Harding is linked to at least one additional vehicle theft in Orange County and one additional vehicle burglary in Irvine. The investigation is ongoing. Detectives will be working to identify the victims of identity theft and the possibility that Harding is linked to several other thefts in Irvine.
During the course of this investigation, an additional associate of Harding, Phillip Alano (8-12-1983), was contacted arrested for possession of personal information of more than 10 individuals, related to identity theft. He was booked into the Orange County Jail where he is being held in lieu of $20,000 bail.
IRVINE POLICE DEPARTMENT
One Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 724-7000 www.irvinepd.org
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The City of Irvine has a population of more than 212,000, spans 65 square miles and is recognized as one of America's safest and most successful master-planned urban communities. Top-rated educational institutions, an enterprising business atmosphere, sound environmental stewardship, and respect for diversity all contribute to Irvine's enviable quality of life. This family-friendly city features more than 16,000 acres of parks, sports fields and dedicated open space and is the home of the Orange County Great Park – the first great metropolitan park of the 21st century. For more information, please visit www.cityofirvine.org.