Breaking News in the Industry: September 28, 2017

Austin jewelry store manager accused of pawning Rolex watches worth $150,000

A manager of a North Austin, Texas, watch and jewelry store faces theft charges after pawning several Rolex watches valued at as much as $150,000, police say. Officers were called out to the Austin Classic Watch and Jewelry store on Monday after two customers called in to report that the store’s manager, 45-year-old Samuel Sean Thomas, would not return Rolexes they had dropped off several months before for repairs, according to an arrest affidavit filed on Tuesday. “Both were given various excuses by Sean Thomas as to why their watches were not ready or could not be returned. Both customers gave investigators the serial numbers of their watches, and officers were able to quickly track them down to pawn shops in the greater Austin area, both of which had been pawned by Thomas. The affidavit said Thomas had an active pawn history, and had either pawned or sold six other Rolex watches since late February.“Several additional Rolex watches were (pawned) or sold by members of Sean Thomas’ family,” the affidavit.   Investigators tracked down 10 more watches, whose owners all said they dropped them off with Thomas for service and never saw them again. The report said the recovered watches were valued between $30,000 and $150,000.  Thomas faces a second-degree felony theft charge punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.  [Source: American-Statesman]

The Home Depot to pay $25M in data breach settlement

A federal judge has issued final approval on a $25 million settlement between The Home Depot and financial institutions involved in a class action lawsuit against the company. The lawsuit stemmed from a 2014 data breach where hackers stole customers’ payment information from self-checkout machines. The settlement was preliminarily approved in March. Numerous credit unions were part of the class action lawsuit, and affected credit unions had until Sept. 14 to file a claim in the settlement. In addition to the $25 million settlement fund, The Home Depot will pay $2.25 million to sponsored entities whose claims were released in connection with Mastercard’s Account Data Compromise program. The Home Depot also agreed to implement stricter data security measures to better protect consumers’ personal information. Those entitled to part of the settlement can expect payouts to begin within 90 days.  [Source: NAFCU]

Retail giant denies racially profiling customers

Embattled retailer Sears Canada is defending an employee accused of racially profiling a First Nations customer earlier this month.

 Helen Ermine alleged to Global News that a staffer at a Sears Canada store in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, insinuated she was trying to shoplift a comforter, before ejecting her from the store on September 20.

 When she later returned to the store with her husband, the same employee yelled at them and locked them out, Ermine said, adding that she believed she was the victim of racial profiling. Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron told Global News a human rights complaint might now be filed against the company. 

Sears Canada spokesman Vincent Power confirmed there was an incident between Ermine and a staffer in the store’s loss-prevention team, but he would not give further details.

However, he defended the employee’s actions, saying it was “fair in light of the circumstances surrounding what occurred”, and adding that Sears “would not tolerate discrimination in any form.” 

The company has previously sacked a worker whose racist remark to a customer was caught on camera and posted to Facebook.

 The incident adds to Sears’ woes, with the retail giant closing down dozens of stores and laying off thousands of staff, many without severance pay, amid a major restructure.  [Source: Human Resources Director]

After the Equifax breach, consumers were advised to freeze their credit; almost no one did

The dominoes continue to fall after the Equifax data breach. On Tuesday, Equifax Chairman of the Board and CEO Richard Smith was the latest, and most high-profile executive to step down, following the exit last week of the company’s chief security officer and CIO. The US Justice Department is looking into sales of Equifax stock by executives before news of the breach was made public. Elizabeth Warren and 11 other Democratic Senators  launched an investigation into the massive data breach, and announced a plan to introduce a bill to give consumers the ability to freeze their credit for free. But fewer than 1% of consumers have put a credit freeze in place, according to a new report from credit monitoring site CreditSesame. Of the nearly four million TransUnion credit reports Credit Sesame analyzed, 0.32% had a credit freeze in place, and 7% had a fraud alert. Freezing your credit, which typically costs $5-10 each time you do it, requires contacting all three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. New credit activity, fraudulent as well as legitimate, will be prevented until you lift the freeze. A fraud alert is free, and requires lenders to verify your identity before issuing new credit.  [Source: Business Insider]

How the Gators’ credit card fraud case unfolded

This is an update to a story we brought to you in yesterday’s LP Insider. The investigation into alleged credit card fraud took another step Monday when sworn complaint affidavits against the nine previously suspended University of Florida football players revealed the possibility of a combined 62 third-degree felony charges. With the UPD investigation complete, the State Attorney’s office will decide whether to file charges against the nine Gators who racked up a combined $17,056.31 in fraudulent charges. If you haven’t followed the case up to this point, this timeline, based on sworn complaints, will help you catch up on how the investigation began, the evidence outlined in the sworn affidavits and what might happen next. On August 15, the University of Florida Police Department responded to an alert from UF Business Services Division Associate Director David Looney and electronic technician Michael Chambers about two students adding unusually high amounts (more than $1,500) to their UF bookstore pre-paid accounts. Students typically added $300 at most at one time for textbooks, the sworn complaint said.

Looney informed officers that the two accounts had also received multiple “chargebacks” over the previous couple months, which is when the cardholder disputes the charge after the purchase. Looney explained that the bookstore typically saw about five chargebacks a year, and any more than that raised eyebrows. UPD learned that one account belonged to Gators defensive end Jordan Smith, with the other belonging to the girlfriend of UF running back Jordan Scarlett. From there, the investigation found similar transactions from accounts belonging to seven other Gators football players: Antonio Callaway, Keivonnis Davis, Richerd Desir-Jones, James Houston, Ventrell Miller, Kadeem Telfort and Rick Wells. Over the next five weeks, further investigation revealed a total of 15 stolen credit cards, with multiple players possessing illegally obtained identification information from people who told investigators they had never met any of the nine UF players. [Source: GatorSports]

Five in custody after shoplifting incident leads to police pursuit

Hartford, Connecticut, police say five people are in custody following a shoplifting incident that led to a police pursuit early Wednesday, September 27th. The suspects, all from Milwaukee, range in age from 14 to 19 years old. Officials say officers were dispatched to the Hartford Walmart shortly before 2:00 a.m. for a report of a retail theft in progress. Those suspects left the store prior to the officers’ arrival. Officers saw the suspects’ vehicle and attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver refused to stop and a pursuit was initiated. A short time later, the suspects were headed eastbound Highway 60 at County CC and struck a tire deflation device deployed by the Slinger Police Department. At least one of the vehicle’s tires were deflated in this attempt, but the driver refused to stop. The suspects avoided a second set of stop sticks at Highway 60 and Highway 175.

Eventually, the suspects headed southbound on Highway 41 until the Washington County Sheriff’s Office was able to deploy tire deflation devices at Highway 41 and Highway 45. Officials say the vehicle drove a short distance on its rims until it was disabled. The five suspects were taken into custody without further incident — and nobody was hurt. The investigation led to the recovery of multiple stolen Walmart sound bars and televisions that the suspects threw from their vehicle while fleeing from officers. A loaded handgun, reported stolen in Milwaukee, was also recovered from the suspects’ vehicle. Criminal charges of felony eluding, retail theft, carrying a concealed weapon and possession of stolen property have been referred to the Washington County District Attorney’s Office. [Source: Fox6 News]

Trick or treat: North Korea leader Kim Jong-un dominates Halloween costumes

Halloween fans are taking inspiration for this year’s costumes from a real life horror… North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Sales of masks bearing the dictator’s likeness have surged online, ahead of Halloween on October 31. Online shoppers have been snapping up a variety of Kim-inspired face-wear, ranging from 99p cardboard masks to full latex headgear costing anywhere between £22 and £100 – of varying degrees of quality. As long as the Pyongyang despot does not make good on his vow to obliterate his enemies with a nuclear missile, it seems Halloween party-goers can expect to celebrate Halloween imitating Kim.

Last week Poundland said it was offloading President’s face masks and copies of his famous red “Make America Great Again” baseball hats in a Halloween sale. The merchandise had originally been created in anticipation of Mr Trump’s state visit to Britain.  But the trip appears to have been postponed, after Theresa May’s invitation to the US President sparked outrage and an online petition signed by thousands of people. Although there has been no official word from the Prime Minister, the proposed visit was omitted from the Queen’s Speech in June, suggesting the trip has been indefinitely shelved. [Source: Daily Express]

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