Passports, visas stolen from Huntington Beach company

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Donna Karafotis and her co-worker Aja Dunlap were frustrated as they left South Coast Visas and Passports in Huntington Beach.

The pair were two of many victims who had their passports and visas stolen during a break-in at the company that handles expedited passport processing and last-minute visa requests.

The San Clemente resident said six people alone at their company, Volcom, had their passports and visas stolen. They were preparing for a business trip to China.

"[I'm in] shock that it happened because we've been dealing with this company for many, many years," Karafotis said.

Police say the suspect or suspects first broke the front window with a rock, possibly to test for an alarm, then pried open the front door and left with client files and passports. It happened between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning at 18600 Main St. in Huntington Beach.

Karafotis, of Placentia, said she and her co-workers are forced to apply for new passports and they had to re-arrange their business trip. But they said the bigger fear is identity theft.

"What are they going to do to help me make sure that no one goes out and starts opening credit cards and bank accounts under my name," Dunlap said.

The company would not say exactly how many people had their visas or passports stolen, but that those affected have been notified.

No one with South Coast would appear on camera but released a statement to Eyewitness News. Administrative assistant Sara Holmes said, "It's a terrible situation, but we're handling it the best we can and making sure to tie up loose ends so no one's personal information is jeopardized."

However, Dunlap said the company has yet to tell her exactly how it's going to protect her identity.

South Coast told Eyewitness News it's working with its insurance company and has alerted the Los Angeles Passport Agency about the stolen passports. It also recommends clients monitor their credit reports.

While police investigate the theft, victims are urged to also contact their financial institutions.

"Request an alert on their accounts, such as a text message, phone call or email if their credit is used or if their banking is accessed in some way," said Officer Jennifer Marlatt, a spokesperson with Huntington Beach Police.
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