At about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, an Irvine officer observed a speeding Mercedes on Lake Forest Drive. The vehicle turned into a residential area. The officer located the vehicle parked in a driveway of a residence. The vehicle's driver and two females in the car were seen ducked down with the lights of the vehicle off.
As the officer approached, the driver of the Mercedes, identified as Michael Harding, then started the vehicle and backed out of the driveway and drove away. The vehicle was then located abandoned in another driveway nearby. The Mercedes had been stolen in September.
A responding officer near the scene located one of the female suspects in the backyard of a residence. She was arrested and cited for possession of drug paraphernalia.
The second female suspect was located at a bus stop by a sheriff's deputy. She was detained and later released.
A search of the Mercedes 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.
Later Wednesday Michael Harding was located by detectives at a shopping center near Shady Canyon and the 405 Freeway, near the site of the Mercedes theft in Sept.
Harding and an associate, James Deroze, were arrested. Deroze, a parolee, was in possession of a fraudulent government document, a parole violation.
Harding was arrested for vehicle theft, commercial burglary, possession of stolen property, resisting arrest, fraudulent use of a credit card and possession of burglary tools. He was also wanted on two outstanding arrest warrants for burglaries in San Diego County. He's suspected of being involved in at least two other vehicle thefts.
Investigators were led to Phillip Alano, an associate of Harding. He was arrested on charges related to identity theft.