Leader of credit fraud ring sent to prison
The leader of a credit-fraud ring that stole personal financial data from dozens of San Diego, California, residents and used it to buy more than $70,000 worth of merchandise was sentenced today in federal court to more than four years in prison. While handing down the 51-month custody term to 29-year-old Daniel Stephen Wray, U.S. District Judge John Houston also ordered him to pay nearly $76,500 in restitution to his victims. Wray pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy to use counterfeit credit cards.
According to court documents, Wray recruited co-conspirators in late 2016, provided them with fraudulent credit cards and drove them to San Diego-area retail businesses to make illicit purchases. Investigators said they believed Wray and his accomplices stole personal data from many of the victims via a credit card “skimmer” — a device that reads and records account information — surreptitiously planted at a La Jolla gas station. After creating bogus credit cards with the filched data, the thieves used them to buy tens of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from San Diego retailers, including Costco and Smart & Final.
Wray admitted to his role as leader of the scheme, acknowledging that he obtained dozens of counterfeit and unauthorized cards and then directed his associates to use them to buy such expensive items as Apple iPads, luxury wrist watches, gold and silver, as well as significant quantities of liquor and energy drinks. Soon after getting the stolen property, Wray would sell it on the black market, according to prosecutors. Wray, a San Diego resident, also admitted to previously having been convicted of illegally possessing 269 counterfeit credit cards in 2014. Wray was on supervised release for his prior conviction when he committed the more recent crimes, and recruited his accomplices from a halfway house where he was serving his supervised release term, according to court documents.
While sentencing Wray this morning, Houston pointed out Wray’s lengthy and serious prior criminal record, his aggravated role in the offense and the effects of identity theft, calling it a crime that “destroys lives.” Perpetrators of such schemes “cannot victimize citizens of our district with impunity,” San Diego-area US Attorney Adam Braverman said. “To anyone who considers credit card fraud a quick and easy payday, this office will investigate and prosecute you, and you will face the consequences,” Braverman said. [Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune]
Suspect faked heart attack after being caught for theft
A Hamilton, Ohio, man “feigned” a heart attack and stroke after being caught for allegedly stealing a walkie-talkie from Menards, according to a police report. Richard Lee Mason, was stopped by a Menards asset protection associate for allegedly stealing a walkie-talkie and batteries. He was detained until police arrived. He gave the responding officer two fake names and two fake birth dates before the officer requested a fingerprint scanner from the Middletown Division of Police. While waiting for the scanner, “Richard feigned a heart attack and fell to the floor,” according to the police report.
Medics were dispatched and he was transported by ambulance to Bethesda Butler. At the hospital, the scanner failed to determine Mason’s identity.
The officer said, “Richard feigned a stroke at the hospital and pretended half of his face was paralyzed.” Eventually, Mason gave police his real name and it was discovered he had multiple active warrants through Hamilton, Fairfield and Butler County. He was discharged from the hospital “with a clean bill of health” and was transported to the Butler County Jail. In addition to the warrants, Mason was charged with theft and obstructing official business. [Source: Journal-News]
Navy sailor collected 2,500 credit card numbers for ID thefts
A US Navy man is facing seven years in federal prison and a six-digit fine for his part in a large-scale identity theft ring. Jarrod Langford, a Florida man assigned to Lemoore Naval Air Station in California, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit credit card fraud and aggravated identity theft, US Attorney McGregor Scott announced on Monday. While a sailor in Lemoore, Langford, 26, along with others got their hands on credit card numbers. Langford used these credit cards to buy and sell voucher codes that were redeemable for items like jewelry and electronic devices, federal prosecutors said. The defendant used a number of illegal methods to get the credit card information.
Often times, he bought information over the Internet, prosecutors said. To hide his location and conceal his involvement in the crimes, Langford installed an application on his computer that established a private network so he could have “anonymous” encrypted Internet sessions and give the appearance he was outside of the state or country. In September 2012, when discovered, he had more than 2,500 credit card account numbers and the personal information of those cardholders. Langford admitted to buying roughly $340,000 in goods through the scheme, according to court documents. He is scheduled to be sentenced in September. Langford faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge and an additional two years for the aggravated identity theft charge. He faces a possible $250,000 fine. [Source: Visalia Times Delta]
Man accused of shoplifting and assaulting store employees
Police in Mishawaka, Indiana, arrested George Lamar after Michiana Crime Stoppers made a strong push to get Lamar arrested. He was wanted on two robbery warrants and six felony theft warrants and detectives with Michiana Crime Stoppers say more charges could come. They say he and a partner were shoplifting at stores in Mishawaka and South Bend, and as Lamar and his partner got on a roll, detectives say their crimes escalated. The pair started taking more and more expensive items and Detectives say things escalated to the point where Lamar and his partner were assaulting store employees who confronted them. “This just goes to show how important it is for all of us to work together, whether it’s from St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office, Michiana Crime Stoppers, South Bend police, Mishawaka police, and our partners at the news stations and media and the community,” said Det. Kayla Miller, Michiana Crime Stoppers.
D-Angelo Depriest-Bey was arrested Monday and Miller says Crime Stoppers posted about the pair on social media. She also made a special focus of their crimes this morning on WSBT 22’s Wanted Wednesday segment. The St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office released the following statement: Prosecuting Attorney Cotter would like to commend the Mishawaka Police Department (MPD) and Det. Sgt. Randy Wisler; the South Bend Police Department (SPBD); and Kayla Miller of Crime Stoppers. He also commends the individuals in our community who came forward with tips that allowed law enforcement officers to apprehend these individuals. [Source: WSBT22 News]
Police encouraging citizens to check bank accounts for fraud
Police in Chattanooga, Tennessee, are encouraging citizens to check their bank accounts after a Florida man was arrested Sunday evening for using cloned debit cards to make withdraws at a First Tennessee ATM. George Ortmeier, 39, was observed by a CPD sergeant making withdrawals at a bank on Brainerd Road, according to the arrest affidavit. The sergeant found that Ortmeier had numerous magnetic stripe cards and cash in his possession. Ortmeier was arrested and taken to the Chattanooga Police Service Center. A United States Service Agent and another CPD officer were brought in for a follow-up with Ortmeier. They seized the cards and cash and read Ortmeier his rights, which he said he understood. They had him sign a consent to search his vehicle and cell phones as well.
The USSS agent checked the 17 cards Ortmeier had and found the numbers on the cards did not match the ones encoded on the respective card’s magnetic stripe. The stripes had been re-encoded with information from other bank accounts. “Somewhere along the lines there was a skimming device placed on an ATM, gas pump, or point of sale inside the store. Able to collect the data from the debit card and pin number then put on a different card to use,” said Charles Petty with the Chattanooga Police Department. The cards also had pin numbers written on stickers attached to them. Ortmeier had banded the used cards together with ATM receipts and cash. CPD said there are numerous additional cards under investigation and other charges are pending.
“Investigators discovered that the suspect had 102 re-encoded credit cards which contained stolen debit card information,” a CPD spokesperson said. Ortmeier told police he was given the cards to make withdrawals from the bank. “The Chattanooga Police would like to encourage our citizens to check their bank statements to see if they have been a victim of debit card fraud,” a CPD spokesperson explained. “If you find that you are a victim, contact your bank as well as the Chattanooga Police Department to make a report of the loss.” “We are cooperating with law enforcement following incidents of unauthorized ATM transactions in Chattanooga,” said Jeff Jackson, First Tennessee’s market president in Chattanooga. “We encourage customers to review their accounts carefully and to report any suspicious activity by calling our Card Claims Center at 877.242.9895.” [Source: WRCB3 News]
Serial shoplifter at it again
Police say a Lady Lake, Florida, woman with a history of shoplifting was at it again Monday, this time at Bealls department store in Leesburg. According to an arrest report, store loss prevention professionals watched Violet R. Gardner, 51, enter the juniors department, take four items off hangers and place them in a black purse she was carrying. She then took two women’s fragrances and stuck them in the bag before walking out of the store. A loss prevention associate stopped her and brought her back to an office, where police arrested her for retail theft. According to police, Gardner has at least two prior convictions for shoplifting. She was also arrested in February for retail theft. [Source: Daily Commercial]