Breaking News in the Industry: September 26, 2017

Crime group used computer hackers in $400K Tucson fraud case

Four Mexican nationals joined forces with Russian hackers to counterfeit thousands of credit cards and make over $400,000 in fraudulent purchases over two years in Tucson and elsewhere in Arizona, federal prosecutors here said. The conspiracy included about 25 people, court records show. The indictment included four named defendants, all of whom pleaded guilty in federal court in Tucson to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, and two whose names were redacted. The cards were used to buy Apple iPhones, designer clothing, electronics, gift cards and other items that were sold for profit in Mexico. Prosecutors said the conspirators made 5,800 counterfeit credit cards from over 300 financial institutions by the time the fraud was uncovered. Most of the hundreds of fraudulent purchases occurred between 2013 and 2015 and involved $500 to $3,500 each time, federal prosecutors said.

The group used stolen credit-card information sent by email from Russia, Ukraine and Tajikistan to Hermosillo, Sonora, and later to Tucson, where it was printed onto counterfeit cards in an apartment on River Road, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson. Jorge Williams Araiza, 28, was sentenced Sept. 12 to three years in prison. Javier Ramirez Villegas, 36, was sentenced Aug. 23 to four years in prison. Both men were accused of being the “shoppers” who used the counterfeit credit cards at retail stores in Tucson and the Phoenix area, court records show. Anwar Barragan Flores, who prosecutors believe led the scam, wired money to individuals in Ukraine and Tajikistan to pay for the stolen credit-card information, court records show. He and Rey Martinez Lopez, who is accused of printing and distributing the counterfeit cards, both pleaded guilty in November 2016. Martinez’s sentencing is scheduled for the first week of November, and Barragan will be sentenced Sept. 29. Martinez faces up to eight years in prison and Barragan faces between six and 12 years in prison.  [Source: Tucson.com]

Employees cited with theft after taking advantage of self check-out error

A trio of Maryville, Tennessee, Walmart employees are facing theft charges after taking advantage of a defective self-checkout station to pocket hundreds of dollars, police said. Tristan J. Fuqua, 20, Galyon Street, Maryville; Derrick Robinson, 23, Vernie Lee Road, Friendsville; and Christopher A. Knight, 28, Old Glory Road, Maryville, were each cited on a charge of theft. Maryville officers were called to Walmart in Maryville Friday after the three were caught taking advantage of an error causing a self-checkout machine to dispense too much change, according to a Maryville Police report.

A loss prevention associate told officers the machine had been improperly loaded, resulting in the problem. Fuqua, Robinson and Knight learned of this and used the machine multiple times Thursday night to pocket $373. Fuqua told officers he discovered the error while making a purchase. He failed to inform store management and made multiple purchases at the machine to steal $188. Robinson and Knight told officers Fuqua tipped them off about the machine. They also failed to inform management and used the machine multiple times each to steal additional money, police said. Robinson had $90 in ill-gotten change, while Knight received $95. All three are to appear in Blount County General Sessions Court to address the theft charges. Their court dates were not immediately known. A Walmart spokesperson said the company had no comment.  [Source: The Daily Times]

Mother uses children as lookouts while she steals from a California cosmetics store

A store owner is hoping to teach a mother a lesson after the woman was caught on camera stealing from a Victorville, California, cosmetics store and appeared to use her children as lookouts during the theft. In surveillance video, a woman and several children walk into Cosmetic Addiction in Victorville, appearing to shop for some makeup. But the woman grabs four bottles of glitter, conceals them in her right hand and then then calmly walks out with the kids. “She saw me down the aisle, I guess she thought it was an opportunity to to grab the stuff and leave,” said owner Patricia Brambila. Brambila, a single mother of three children, says the bottles cost only $20. She believes the woman used her children as lookouts so she wouldn’t get caught. 
”They learn from you as a parent. You are their biggest example. You are their role model, so basically what they see — that’s what they do,” she said.

Brambila was able to identify the mother and contacted authorities. Family members came back to the store to return the items, but the bottles had already been opened. “I cannot risk selling it to another customer,” Brambila said. She posted the surveillance video on Facebook to make an example of the woman. Brambila is not upset about the lost money, but rather it’s about teaching the mother a lesson. “You don’t do that, especially in front of your kids,” she said.  [Source: NBC4 News]

Officer accused of embezzlement, suspended without pay

A police officer with the Hazel Park Police Department in Michigan has been suspended without pay after being accused of embezzling at least $85,000 in non-drug forfeitures. Now an internal investigation is underway, as well as a criminal investigation by Michigan State Police. The officer — whose name will not be disclosed since he had not been charged at press time — is an 18-year veteran of the HPPD, formerly assigned to the detective bureau. Police Chief Martin Barner said the officer was in charge of managing non-drug forfeitures, which are assets seized by police — primarily vehicles — used in the commission of non-drug-related crimes such as retail fraud or drunken driving incidents. Barner was conducting an internal audit when he noticed inconsistencies in the numbers dating back to at least January 2012, up through Sept. 11, 2017 — at least $85,000 in missing funds, a number that could continue to grow as the investigation continues. Barner immediately suspended the officer in charge without pay. When it came time for the administrative interview, which could result in the employee’s termination, the officer resigned. The department is taking the matter extremely seriously, the chief said. The chief said he currently doesn’t suspect any other individuals involved in the crime. He said that this is the first time something like this has happened at the HPPD, to the best of his knowledge. “People ask me how I feel,” Barner said. “It makes me feel like it should make anyone feel: betrayed.” [Source: C and G News]

Kohl’s announces Amazon returns at select Kohl’s stores

Kohl’s announced that 82 stores across Los Angeles and Chicago will be offering free, convenient returns for Amazon customers starting in October. Kohl’s will pack and ship eligible Amazon return items for free, providing an additional service and convenience to Amazon customers within select Kohl’s stores. “We are thrilled to launch this unprecedented and innovative concept, allowing customers to bring in their un-packaged Amazon returns to Kohl’s and we will pack them, ship them, and return them to Amazon for free,” said Richard Schepp, Chief Administrative Officer. “This is a great example of how Kohl’s and Amazon are leveraging each other’s strengths – the power of Kohl’s store portfolio and omni-channel capabilities combined with the power of Amazon’s reach and loyal customer base.”

Amazon Returns at Kohl’s creates a convenient location for Amazon customers to return eligible Amazon.com merchandise to select local Kohl’s stores. Items can be returned free of charge regardless of return reason and regardless of whether the items are packaged for shipping. Kohl’s will package and transport all returned items to Amazon return centers. As an additional convenience, customers visiting Kohl’s for Amazon Returns at Kohl’s services can use designated parking spots near the store entrance. Starting in October 2017, Amazon Returns at Kohl’s will be available at 82 Kohl’s stores in Los Angeles and Chicago. [Source: Kohl’s Press Release]

Melee at store; attempt to steal 33 handbags

Two New York City men and one woman are facing felony charges for allegedly assaulting a Greenwich police officer and trying to steal dozens of pricey handbags from Saks The Vault in Greenwich Connecticut. The police incident report, filed at Superior Court in Stamford, described a physical brawl between the three suspected robbers and a Greenwich police officer — allied with two Saks loss-prevention associates — aiming to block their escape with well over $50,000 in handbags. A Saks LP manager suffered an arm injury during the brawl at the back entrance of the Vault store, according to the report. Under arrest on charges for robbery, assault and criminal mischief are: Jennifer Nervil, 22, of Brooklyn; Quandel Baldwin, 25, of Manhattan; and Hassan Carter, 21, also of Manhattan.

The police officer blocked Nervil from leaving the store. Carter and Baldwin attempted to flee out of the front of the store, but were blocked by a Saks LP manager and associate. A physical fight at the locked rear entry ensued, and the officer dragged Carter and Nervil to the ground, while they “began pushing and kicking to prevent being apprehended.” The security manager was punched repeatedly by Baldwin, according to the report, and the officer then “took him to the ground…to prevent any further injuries” to the LP manager. The officer was then set upon and kicked by the other suspects, “to try and help Baldwin escape,” the report states. While Baldwin was subdued and handcuffed, the other two alleged thieves unlocked the rear door and fled. Multiple police units were arriving, and they were apprehended a short time later in central Greenwich. Thirty-three bags were grabbed by the thieves, according to police. They ranged in price from $995 to $2,590. [Source: Greenwich Time]

FBI releases 2016 crime statistics

The estimated number of violent crimes in the nation increased for the second straight year, rising 4.1 percent in 2016 when compared with 2015 data, according to FBI figures released today. Property crimes dropped 1.3 percent, marking the 14th consecutive year the collective estimates for these offenses declined. The 2016 statistics show the estimated rate of violent crime was 386.3 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants, and the estimated rate of property crime was 2,450.7 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants. The violent crime rate rose 3.4 percent compared with the 2015 rate, and the property crime rate declined 2.0 percent. These and additional data are presented in the 2016 edition of the FBI’s annual report Crime in the United States. This publication is a statistical compilation of offense, arrest, and police employee data reported by law enforcement agencies voluntarily participating in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. The UCR Program streamlined the 2016 edition by reducing the number of tables from 81 to 29, but still presented the major topics, such as offenses known, clearances, and persons arrested. Limited federal crime, human trafficking, and cargo theft data are also included.

The UCR Program collects information on crimes reported by law enforcement agencies regarding the violent crimes of murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault as well as the property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. (Although the FBI classifies arson as a property crime, it does not estimate arson data because of variations in the level of participation by the reporting agencies. Consequently, arson data are not included in the property crime estimate.) The program also collects arrest data for the offenses listed above plus 20 offenses that include all other crimes except traffic violations. Of the 18,481 city, county, university and college, state, tribal, and federal agencies eligible to participate in the UCR Program, 16,782 submitted data in 2016.  [Source: FBI Press Release]

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