Breaking News in the Industry: July 20, 2018

Twenty-Three arrested on fuel and credit card fraud charges

The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office in Florida has arrested 23 people accused of using other people’s credit cards and personal information and illegally transporting diesel fuel for sale on the black market since November. During the investigation, deputies determined the suspects had obtained the credit card information of 382 people across the country, including dozens from Osceola County, according to a press release.

In these cases, suspects typically use credit card numbers and personal information that has been “skimmed,” at gas pumps and ATMs and transferred to blank gift cards and credit cards to purchase large amounts of fuel. They transport the fuel in containers inside vehicles. “The containers are generally dangerous, homemade, unapproved, and not designed to transport fuel of any kind,” according to the press release. The fuel is later sold on the black market at a discounted rate.

Osceola County deputies have discovered 17 vehicles illegally transporting fuel and arrested 23 individuals on charges ranging from schemes to defraud, trafficking/possession of more than 50 counterfeit credit cards, grand theft, knowingly with unlawful intent possessing five or more items of personal identification information, use or possession of identification information of another without consent, obtaining fuel by fraud, and the unlawful conveyance of fuel.

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The Sheriff’s Office is working with the United States Secret Service and the Florida Department of Agriculture to prevent this crime, according to the press release. More than half of the suspects charged in these crimes have been federally indicted.  [Source: Orlando Sentinel]

Employee accused of under-ringing more than $2,000 of merchandise

A Menards employee faces retail theft charges after intentionally under-ringing customers, costing the store more than $2,000 in lost sales, police said. On Tuesday, 39-year-old Vonnie R. Hansen allowed a shopper to leave the store with $341 worth of merchandise, despite having charged the customer only $17, the complaint stated. Similar thefts occurred July 12, when Hansen is accused of charging only $4 for what should have been a $408 sale, and $39 for a $1,794 sale, police said. The Menards at 2100 Lake Ave., Woodstock, Illinois, lost about $2,416 as a result of the transactions. Reached by phone Wednesday, the store manager declined to comment on the charges.

Authorities are in the process of reviewing video footage from the store. However, officers have not made any additional arrests, police said. Hansen, of the 4300 block of Lathrop Drive, Woodstock, is charged with three counts of felony retail theft and one count of misdemeanor retail theft. If convicted of the felony offense, Hansen could be sentenced to as many as five years in prison. She’s expected to go before a judge Friday.

Hansen was on probation for cocaine possession at the time of the alleged theft. Officers arrested her and another woman in November after a months-long drug investigation, in which Hansen was accused of selling drugs to undercover officers on multiple occasions. She accepted a plea deal to close the case in March. McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather ordered Hansen to serve two years of probation. Hansen remained at the McHenry County Jail on Wednesday on $10,000 bond. She would need to post $1,000 bail for her release.  [Source: Northwest Herald]

Three arrested and one more charged in ORC and ID theft

Three people have been arrested following a Polk County Sheriff’s Office Organized Retail Theft Unit investigation that found they had worked together stealing the identities and personal information of sixty people, and using that information to defraud various JCPenney’s stores in eleven counties. One other person is still being sought.

The group fraudulently purchased merchandise with credit cards in other people’s names, and then exchanged that merchandise for gift cards or cash at JCPenney’s stores. They would then sell the gift cards for cash at a discounted rate. Each of the suspects will face various amounts of charges, among them are: Racketeering, Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering, Grand Theft, Petit Theft, Criminal Use of Personal Identification Information-30 or more persons and Criminal Use of Personal Identification Information.

There were three JCPenney’s stores in Polk County that were victims of Grand and Petit Theft: 3800 U.S. 98 North Suite 200, Lakeland; 6200 Grandview Parkway, Davenport; and 501 Eagle Ridge Drive, Lake Wales. The other JCPenney’s Stores were located in the following counties: Duval, Clay, Lake, Pinellas, Pasco, Volusia, Orange, Osceola, and Hillsborough. These counties are located within 8 different Judicial Circuits. “This investigation turned up sixty victims of identity theft from all over the United States, and the numerous JCPenney’s stores across Florida. But it doesn’t stop there, because when stores lose money like this, it eventually costs us all. This was outstanding investigative work by our Organized Retail Crime Unit.”

The investigation began on March 21, 2018 when JCPenney’s contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office about fraudulent activity at their stores. Between October 26, 2017 and April 3, 2018, Nelson, Scott, Byrd, and Gibson (and possibly others) were responsible for making sixty five separate fraudulent transactions online to purchase $21,555.43 worth of JCPenney’s merchandise using someone else’s credit/debit card information. 15 of those occurred in Polk County.

Members of the organization were able to obtain thirty-two JCPenney’s gift cards totaling $10,458.29 (exchanged for fraudulently purchased merchandise), three cash refunds totaling $877.34 and one transaction valued at $303.88 where the merchandise was returned for either cash or a JCPenney’s gift card. Twenty-two of the fraudulently obtained JCPenney’s gift cards were sold at Tampa Gift Card King that is located at 9340 North Florida Avenue Unit F in Tampa, Florida for a total of $4,729.00.   [Source: The Daily Ridge]

Asset protection team helps police track down thieves

Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, said the Target asset protection team helped authorities track down two thieves after they tried to make unauthorized purchases at the store. LPD said on July 16, Nielsen Grueso and Nataly Cornejo stole a purse from Panera Bread and another from Whole Foods before heading to the Target at 40th and Yankee Hill Road. Police said the couple tried to make several large purchases with stolen credit cards at the Target, when employees became suspicious and notified asset protection.

The AP member asked the duo for identification, but the request was refused and they left the store. A short time later, the two tried to enter the Target again and make another purchase, but the AP member refused once again. In turn, they sent the pictures of them to other area Targets. Later in the day, Grueso and Cornejo used a stolen credit card to buy an iPad at Best Buy, before traveling to the Target at 48th and O streets. The AP team at the Target immediately recognized the pair from the photos sent to the store, and police were called. [Source: WOWT6 News]

Man arrested in Yeti cooler theft ring

An ordinary shoplifting case turned into an arrest of man suspected of being involved in an organized theft ring. Selma Police arrested Leon Gamble Jr. and charged him with Organized Retail Theft in connection with the grab and run theft of Yeti coolers valued nearly $1,200. On Feb. 8, loss prevention associates at Academy Sports and Outdoors on Interstate 35 North in Selma, Texas, responded to the fire alarm going off after the side fire exit door had been opened. The surveillance footage revealed two suspects had run off with at least four Yeti coolers.

After Selma Police put up a “be on the lookout” message up to law enforcement agencies across the state, Fort Worth detectives identified the suspects that were involved in many similar cases. The affidavit said that police found the stolen coolers were put up for sale on Evidence showed that Gamble and another suspect were tied to the ads. The suspects were found to have stayed at a hotel near the Academy store where they posted ads for those specific stolen coolers. Seven other law enforcement agencies, including Houston and East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, also had active theft cases involving Gamble and other suspects.   [Source: News4SA]

Walmart wins patent for in-store audio monitoring

Walmart has been awarded a U.S. patent for a “listening to the front end” technology that potentially could be used to build a system of sensors to monitor various shopping activities inside of a store, including listening to interactions between store associates and shoppers, according to news first reported by BuzzFeed.

The patent describes how a “system of sensors” could be implemented in a portion of a store, such as a checkout area, and how an analysis of the resulting audio of noises such as shopping cart movement, information about the number of shopping bags used and conversations between the associate and the customer could be used to create a “performance metric” for store employees. The report comes several months after Amazon received two patents for “haptic feedback” devices that could be worn by employees of its fulfillment center to assist them in their jobs and track their locations at a given time, according to a post from HRDRIVE, a RetailDIVE sister publication.   [Source: RetailDIVE]

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