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Breaking News in the Industry: August 31, 2018

Cuban national gets 57 months in credit card fraud scheme

A Miami-based Cuban man who headlined a lucrative credit-card-fraud road show – knowing he faced only misdemeanor charges if the cases remained in state court – hit the wall when he and his Cuban partner were caught in Rogersville, and federal prosecutors agreed to accept the case, according to court documents.

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer on Tuesday threw the book at Amaurys Mendez Companon, 40 when he sentenced him to 57 months in federal prison, the maximum penalty. In July, Greer sentenced Companon’s partner, Odemnis Prats Leiva, to 54 months in a federal lockup, which was also the highest guidelines-rage sentence.

Companon and Leiva, who are responsible for paying more than $21,000 in restitution, will get credit for time served since they were taken into custody at the Rogersville Walmart in August 2017. Federal authorities seized more than $32,000 in cash, $16,000 in money orders and $7,000 in gift cards, along with a credit card encoder and laptop computer.

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The Cubans stole credit card numbers at fuel stations using a skimmer, which they installed inside the pump. After harvesting the information, it was re-encoded onto stolen gift cards, which could then be used as credit cards, according to court documents. They perpetrated identical crimes in Utah, New York and at three locations in North Carolina before they were arrested in Rogersville. They received straight probation in Utah, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Harker.

“For organized and ambitious people willing to engage in fraud, it is an easy and rewarding activity with an extremely low expected cost in terms of incarceration,” Harker wrote in the prosecution sentencing memorandum. “It is apparent from the level of planning and organization … (the defendants have) a history of making a living engaging in credit card fraud.”

Companon was born in Cuba, but later emigrated to Spain and became a citizen there. He overstayed a temporary visa after coming to the United States in 2012, according to his defense attorney, Greeneville lawyer Curt Collins. Companon was trying to save enough money to become a U.S. citizen, and then bring family members to South Florida from Cuba, according to Collins. It’s unclear if Companon will be deported after he’s released from prison. Reyes has yet to make his initial appearance in federal court.   [Source: Citizen Tribune]

Employee allegedly steals more than $11,000 from employer

Police have filed charges of felony theft and receiving stolen property against a Pennsylvania woman who allegedly stole more than $11,000 in cash from her employer during January and February of this year. Tamera O’Donnell, 41, reportedly falsified lottery winnings and took between $200-850 from the gas station, Fuel On, located along Route 15, during that period. Police reports indicated O’Donnell lied on the job application, using a fake name, because of her criminal history.

When confronted by the store’s loss prevention associate after surveillance footage caught a series of thefts, O’Donnell allegedly confessed to the associate to stealing about $3,000. Further investigation showed additional thefts, police said.  According to court documents, O’Donnell confessed to the thefts saying she stole the money to support a drug addiction. Police reports also indicated that O’Donnell said she used a fake name to get the job because of her history of theft convictions which go back to at least 1998 in Northumberland County. O’Donnell was arraigned before District Justice Jeffrey Mensch today and was remanded to the Union County Jail in lieu of $5,000 monetary bail. Her preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 4, 2018..   [Source: North Central PA News]

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Infographic: A look at data breach laws by state

A data breach is “the unauthorized acquisition of covered information that compromises security, integrity or confidentiality,” according to software company Digital Guardian. While all 50 states have developed their own set of laws, there are many variations in how they protect the individuals affected, the company said.

In response to a rise in data breach concerns, Digital Guardian produced an infographic demonstrating data breach laws by state. The infographic outlines when a victim must be notified, how the victim must be notified, laws, standards and other pertinent resources. “Each state has its own set of notification laws in the event of a breach. Some are strict, such as Alabama and California, while others, such as Kentucky and Mississippi, are less strict. How strict are your state’s data breach laws?” Digital Guardian asked.   [Source: Benzinga]

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Employee used customer information to steal $25K worth of iPhones

A former GoWireless/Verizon employee in Kennesaw is accused of stealing customers’ personal information to buy $25,000 worth of iPhones, Channel 2 Action News reported. Howard Presley allegedly bought 33 iPhones using customers’ information while he worked at the store on Collins Road, Channel 2 reported.

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Kennesaw police have charged Presley with identity fraud, according to an arrest warrant obtained by the news station. The warrant alleges Presley “purchased 33 Apple iPhones using the fraudulent information of 12 different people.” The victims were compromised between November 2016 and May 2017, Channel 2 reported. Presley was no longer employed as of May 2017, a GoWireless spokesman told the news station.Police told Channel 2 “Verizon wrote off each of the stolen phones as a loss.” A report filed by a customer is what tipped off police.

The spokesman also sent a statement to the news station that said: “Go Wireless has a longstanding Code of Conduct that in part states that we expect all our employees to demonstrate the highest standards of public trust and conduct which includes, among other things, protecting customer information. To that effect, GoWireless has a loss prevention department which investigates incidents involving employees and customers and works with police agencies in pursuing criminal prosecution, including restitution, where the facts and circumstances so warrant.”   [Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution]

Alleged shoplifter fills cart, goes to jail empty-handed

A California woman and two accomplices had a different kind of afternoon than they planned last Thursday, when they allegedly went into a big box store to help themselves to some merchandise. Roselynn Tiare Haunga, 38, was arrested after she and two accomplices went into the Walmart in Patterson to steal several items.

Police Services Sergeant and Acting Police Chief Micky LaBarbera said that the three went into the store with the intent to commit theft, and went past the registers with a cart full of items without paying. Loss prevention confronted Haunga and she attempted to leave. “Haunga pushed the loss prevention associate out of the way and went to the parking lot,” LaBarbera said by email. “She was followed by an employee who was attempting to call 911. Haunga attempted to slap the phone out of the employee’s hand. She was found in the parking lot by law enforcement and detained,” LaBarbera said. The two accomplices were not named. The items that weren’t paid for remained at the store. [Source: Patterson Irrigator]

Retailer allegedly revokes membership of customer who abused its extremely lenient return policy

Retailer allegedly revokes membership of customer who abused its extremely lenient return policy. Costco is known for having one of the most lenient return policies of any major chain store, but it seems they can (and do) cut off those who abuse it. According to Business Insider, at least one customer claims she had her membership revoked when trying to make a return.

The super store’s website has a blanket return policy on merchandise stating that they “guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell, and will refund your purchase price.” Of course, there are a few exceptions, such as electronics (returns accepted within 90 days), diamonds (within 48 hours with original paperwork), and cigarettes and alcohol (returns never accepted). Beloved by customers, the extremely broad policy has created some serious issues for the store — and tales of abuse are starting to circulate. Stories began popping up on Reddit and Facebook from Costco employees who shared the craziest returns they’ve ever processed (and accepted!) at the store, which include a dead Christmas tree, a half-eaten steak, a decade-old boombox, a 13-year old fish, and an empty bottle of wine because the customer claimed it gave her a headache. “Costco goes overboard on the whole member is always right s**t.” one Reddit user wrote.

However, according to a new report by Business Insider, Costco’s return policy might not be as lenient as you think. According to the publication, at least one woman has claimed her membership was revoked due to an excess of returned items. Maryam Nicksolat told the outlet she’d been a member of Costco since 2006, but lost her membership in 2018 after she tried to return a printer she purchased in 2010. Nicksolat said the printer malfunctioned shortly after she purchased it, but she didn’t ever get around to returning it. Printers are not listed under Costco’s 90-day exception for electronics, so she attempted to return the product to the store eight years later. She was allegedly told she couldn’t return the printer to her local store in Fairfax, Virginia, and was confronted by a manager, who held a list of all of her previous returns and cited them as the reason they couldn’t process the transaction.

Nicksolat then claims she called customer service and spoke to Jeff Long, the senior vice president of Northeast operations for Costco, who told her that they would be terminating her membership. BI cites a letter Nicksolat received, which stated she would be refunded for the printer, its ink and the yearly membership cost, which ranges from $60-$120. “It is apparent from a review of your membership account that you are not happy with the products you have purchased from Costco, and we are unable to satisfy you as a member,” Long wrote in the letter. However, BI points out this instance might not be precedence, and even employees seemed confused by protocol for revoking memberships due to returns. They called two locations in Virginia and were told there was no limit on items to be returned and that was not grounds for membership termination.

According to Costco’s website, they reserve the right to “cancel and refund your membership fee in full at any time if you are dissatisfied. In the event a member is not satisfied with Costco merchandise, the membership fees may be refunded and the membership canceled,” a representative for the company told BI in a statement. “This decision is made on a case-by-case basis and is at the discretion of each location manager. Additionally, memberships may be canceled due to abuse of the Member Privileges and Conditions.”   [Source: Yahoo! Entertainment]

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