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Breaking News in the Industry: June 14, 2018

Fraudster sentenced to 10 years after stealing $9 million in credit card refunds

Florida resident Michael Cooper was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Monday after misusing credit card “chargebacks,” the term for when a credit card company takes money back from a merchant to refund a consumer, federal prosecutors said Monday. Created to enhance consumer fraud protection, chargebacks are meant for situations when a product is unsatisfactory, arrived damaged or never arrived at all. The consumer can file a complaint with the credit card company rather than the retailer and be reimbursed at the latter’s expense.

Cooper fraudulently obtained more than $9 million in refunds from at least 76 different businesses this way between 2012 and 2016, according to the Department of Justice. He owned and operated several businesses devoted to the process of fraudulently claiming refunds. Under the guise of being an Internet service company, he gleaned customers’ personal information. He then impersonated these individuals in phone calls and written communications with the individuals’ credit card companies, fabricating documents on some occasions to obtain refunds on their behalf, but then funneling the money to himself.

E-commerce sites lost $7 billion to fraudulent chargebacks in 2016, a number that is expected to leap to $31 billion by 2020, according to the Nilson Report, a credit card research firm. Such fraud is called “friendly fraud” and is an increasingly expensive problem for business owners, according to Robert Harrow, head of credit card research at personal-finance site Value Penguin. It is called “friendly fraud” because the cardholder, or supposed victim, and the fraudster are the same person. If customers continue to abuse the amenity, Harrow added, they might lose it. “People should take this story as a learning point,” he said. “If people abuse this over time, it’s possible for such protections to be reworked. The moment this begins costing others millions of dollars, the banks and Congress will take notice and take action.”   [Source: Market Watch]

Employee said stealing ‘was easy.’ Now she is charged with three felonies

A Choice Cigarette Discount Outlet employee admitted to stealing $6,716.61 from the store and gave cartons of cigarettes to those who she was indebted to, according to State College police in Pennsylvania. The storeowner told police Elssye Holroyd, 35, was stealing from the store for five months and began in July 2017. She had been ringing up sales on the cash register before using the “No Sale” button to open the drawer and deposit the cash without registering a transaction. She would then use the “Safe Drop” button to open the drawer and take the cash from the register before placing it in her purse off camera, according to police.

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Holroyd told an officer she did so because she needed money and stealing from the store “was easy.” She is charged with one felony count of retail theft, one felony count of theft by unlawful taking and one felony count of receiving stolen property. She was arraigned before District Judge Casey McClain, who set bail at $5,000 unsecured. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 20.   [Source: Centre Daily Times]

Police find shoplifting suspect with a gun in his truck

Police investigating a reported shoplifting at the Walmart at The Strip stopped the suspect outside, summoned a K-9 to the scene and, a short time later, found a loaded gun and two pipes used to smoke illegal drugs. Hugh E. Smith Jr., 33, of Warsaw, Ohio, was arrested Tuesday at the store at  where the officers found the gun and $200 in stolen merchandise, Stark County Jail records show.

Police say Smith went into the store, took about $200 in merchandise and left without paying for it. He was stopped outside at his Ford pickup and, when the police K-9 called to the scene indicated the presence of narcotics, officers began to search. They found a loaded Glock 27 .40-caliber handgun inside the unlocked center console and two glass smoking pipes hidden in a pair of tan work gloves under the front passenger seat, the jail records show. They also found the stolen merchandise in the center console and under the truck. Smith was jailed on charges of improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle, theft and drug paraphernalia possession. He remained in the jail early Wednesday, held in lieu of $26,000 bond pending a Massillon Municipal Court hearing. [Source: IndeOnline]

Fleeing shoplifter ditches car, causes crash

A man with a Plainfield, Ohio, mailing address faces felony and misdemeanor charges after police say he fled officers who attempted to apprehend him for shoplifting, ditched his car and sent the car careening into a tree. Vygandas Ezerskis, 51, faces charges including retail theft and aggravated fleeing and eluding. Joliet police told the Herald-News an officer attempted to stop a Honda Odyssey believed to be connected to a shoplifting incident at a Crest Hill business Thursday after the vehicle disregarded a stoplight. The vehicle did not stop even after an officer activated her siren and continued west on Caton Farm Road, hitting a pickup truck near Caton Farm and Drauden roads, according to the report. Ezerskis is accused of bailing out of the car on Ruth Fitzgerald Drive but leaving it running, causing it to crash into a tree. Ezerskis was arrested after police chased him on foot.

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Will County jail records indicate Ezerskis is also charged with disregarding a traffic-control device, criminal damage to property, failure to notify the owner of an unattended vehicle of damage, as well as fleeing/attempting to elude an officer, improper lane use, driving an uninsured vehicle, failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident and resisting an officer. Ezerskis appeared in Will County court on June 8 and has another appearance scheduled for June 28. He remained in custody as of Tuesday, according to jail records, and his bond was set at a total of $15,000, meaning he would have to post $1,500 to be released. Ezerskis has a prior arrest for domestic battery in Will County from 2014, but that charge was dropped in 2015 after the complaining witness did not appear in court.
The chase involving Ezerskis came a day before another Plainfield-area man was arrested after a wild pursuit for suspected robbery and attempted robberies. [Source: Plainfield Patch]

Police officer accused of stealing from 5 stores; faces 49 charges

A former Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CMPD) police officer in North Carolina, already facing shoplifting charges, is now facing more than 40 additional larceny charges. Samuel Yaravitz was initially accused of shoplifting from the Harris Teeter on Morrison Boulevard in South Park between Feb. 13 and May 9. In May, Yaravitz was charged with seven counts of larceny.

On Wednesday, CMPD charged Yaravitz in 42 additional shoplifting cases at five different Harris Teeter locations across the city. Detectives presented all of the cases to the magistrate’s office and issued 42 criminal summons for misdemeanor larceny. In total, Yaravitz is charged with 49 cases of misdemeanor larceny. Police said Yaravitz used a marked cruiser during some of the crimes but have not said exactly what was stolen.

“We are charged with upholding and enforcing the law and will continue to hold ourselves accountable when we violate it,” said CMPD Chief Kerr Putney. “I am disappointed that a member of our department has fallen short of our organization’s high standards.” Yaravitz, who had been a CMPD officer since June 1999, resigned on May 14. This is an ongoing investigation and additional charges may be forthcoming.  [Source: WSOCTV9 News]

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Shoplifting suspect rescued from nearby creek

A Lucas County, Ohio, police department conducted a water rescue for a shoplifting suspect early Wednesday. Deputy Chief Todd Kitzler says around 2:30am officers were attempting to question a suspected shoplifter when he fled on foot before jumping into Swan Creek near Weckerly Road and Finzel Road. Police say 23-year-old Connor N. Lake of Whitehouse had been in the water for about an hour when the Whitehouse Fire Department deployed a swimmer to assist with recovery. Lake was questioned in a theft at the True North Shell Station on Weckerly Road in Whitehouse. He was taken to a local hospital where he was treated and released. Lake is lodged in Lucas County jail on felony obstructing official business and misdemeanor failure to comply charges. [Source: NBC24 News]


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