Delaware County District Attorney G. Michael Green yesterday announced the arrests of three Chester residents accused of running a sophisticated identify-theft and counterfeiting ring - the fourth such operation that his office has investigated this year.

Ylana Starks, 30, allegedly implicated herself when she called police to report that her "very big" barbecue grill and other items - worth about $1,500 altogether - had been snatched from her back yard.

Police later determined that the stolen goods had been purchased at Home Depot by Starks' co-defendant, Donald Mewha, 59, using the stolen credit-card information of a Kentucky woman.

"If you steal something," Green said, "don't report that somebody else stole it from you."

The alleged head of the identity-theft scheme, Kevin Henson, 36, didn't have ID on him when police raided his house in late May and found him hiding in the attic.

"Henson was naked," Green said, declining to elaborate.

Green said the trio set up a "boiler-room operation" in a Chester apartment. Inside, police found scanners, printers, blank-check stock, hologram foil and other materials used to produce counterfeit checks and credit cards.

The trio bought humdrum items for themselves - fishing poles, groceries, garden tools, a leaf blower, a ceiling fan - but likely were planning to sell the credit cards that they manufactured, or already had done so, Green said. The group had about 400 credit-card numbers, he said.

"Those are 400 actual people, their real credit information," he said.

Green did not say how the numbers had been obtained, but warned consumers to guard their credit cards against employees of legitimate businesses who may covertly run them through a card-reading device and then sell the information on the black market.