Breaking News in the Industry: March 20, 2018

Trio charges $100K to fake credit cards

A trio of Flushing, New York, residents are facing prison time for allegedly going on lavish shopping sprees with fake plastic created in an elaborate counterfeit credit card scheme. The three are charged with charging more than $100,000 in high-end purchases from retail stores like Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s to the bogus cards, said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. Junwei Chen, 34, Deng Deng Li, 27, and Yue Yuan, 27, were arrested on March 9 after authorities found hundreds of forged and blank credit cards, dozens of fake licenses, forgery equipment, a box of ketamine and two loaded handguns in a raid of their Quince home, where a 2-year-old child had been living, Brown said. “The defendants in this case are accused of operating a sophisticated credit card manufacturing mill with embossing machines, card writers and hundreds of blank credit cards,” Brown said. “The defendants’ alleged crimes not only victimized the department stores, but also consumers.”

Along with receipts for purchases at several high-end department stores, detectives found unopened boxes of makeup, skincare and fragrance products from designer brands such as Lancôme, Yves Saint Laurent, Tom Ford, Chanel, Gucci and Cartier, prosecutors said. Detectives also recovered Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, Canada Goose winter coats, cell phones and more than $22,000 in cash during the raid, according to the charges. Chen, Li and Yuan were arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on charges including grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, criminal possession of a weapon, criminal possession of a forged instrument, criminal possession of forgery devices, criminal possession of a firearm and endangering the welfare of a child. Chen and Li were held on $100,000 and $50,000 bails, respectively, and Yuan was released on her own recognizance. The trio will return to court on April 17. [Source: Flushing Patch]

CBP seizes more than $1.3M in counterfeit speakers

More than $1 million of counterfeit home theater speaker systems in a rail car headed for Ranier were seized in February by US Customs and Border Protection officers. CBP Office of Field Operations officers working at the International Falls Port of Entry in Minnesota targeted a rail container destined to arrive in Ranier. In February, CBP officers inspected the rail container and discovered merchandise in violation of intellectual property rights regulations. The merchandise consisted of 480 home theater speaker systems. Examination of the speaker systems revealed counterfeit markings. The counterfeit merchandise has an aggregate manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $1.38 million. “Counterfeiting adversely affects lawful rights holders of their original ideas and the ability to make a profit from them,” Anthony Jackson, International Falls port director, said in a news release. “Counterfeiting also harms consumers because manufacturers of forged products have little motivation to use safe, high-quality materials in their products.”

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Stopping the flow of illicit goods is a priority trade issue for CBP. The importation of counterfeit merchandise can damage the US economy and threaten the health and safety of the American people. For more information on CBP’s IPR priority trade issue, visit CBP’s website and look for CBP Trade and IPR. With the growth of foreign trade, unscrupulous companies have profited billions of dollars from the sale of counterfeit and pirated goods, said the news release. To combat the illicit trade of merchandise violating laws relating to IPR, trademark and copyright holders may register with CBP through an online system. Such registration assists CBP officers and import specialists in identifying merchandise that violate U.S. law. CBP’s IPR enforcement strategy is multi-layered and includes seizing illegal merchandise at borders, pushing the border “outward” through audits of suspect importers, cooperating with international trading partners, and collaborating with industry and governmental agencies to enhance these efforts.  [Source: International Falls Journal]

Suspect made $70,000 in fraudulent purchases from auto parts store

In Lopatcong Township, Pennsylvania, police said they charged a man with using stolen credit cards to buy nearly $70,000 in merchandise from an auto parts store. Ramon O. Dominguez, 31, of the first block of Lewis Street in Phillipsburg, turned himself in to police on Saturday, police said. He has been charged with using several credit cards to make purchases at Advance Auto Parts at 855 Route 22 in the township. Police said the purchases were made during 2016 and 2017. A store employee said Sunday he could not comment, referring a reporter to the store manager, who was not available. Police said Dominguez was released pending an upcoming court appearance.  [Source: The Morning Call]

Feds indicted 18 in prepaid card scam

Eighteen people have been indicted by a Flint federal grand jury for a scam involving the use of Walmart prepaid cards to wire money from the retail giant for their personal funds. Unsealed on Monday, March 12, the federal indictment alleges that the 18 named defendants and “others known and unknown to the grand jury” conspired in the scheme to scam Walmart into wiring funds to illegitimate prepaid cards. Two of the defendants, Latoriya Brown and Latrina Davis, were each arraigned Tuesday, March 13, on a single count of wire fraud conspiracy and released on $10,000 unsecured bond. MLive-The Flint Journal is not naming the other defendants as they have not yet been arraigned. All 18 are indicted on a single count of wire fraud conspiracy, punishable by up to a $250,000 fine and 20 years behind bars. According to the indictment, the scam began in January 2016 when members of the conspiracy would travel to Walmart stores in the Eastern District of Michigan and elsewhere to acquire prepaid cards. When the checkout cashier would scan the barcode on the falsified prepaid card, a wire transmission from Walmart’s corporate office in Missouri would activate the account number assigned to the card.

When the cashier was instructed to load a dollar value onto the card, a member of the alleged conspiracy would either slide an illegitimate credit or debit card or pretend to slide a card through the reader as if they were paying for the transaction. A member of the conspiracy would then instruct the cashier to manually complete the transaction by pressing various sequences involving the cash tender key, which would fraudulently show that the card was paid for and wire funds from Walmart ePay databases in Colorado or Arkansas to the card. After the transaction was complete, the conspirators would then allegedly convert funds on the prepaid cards to their own personal use. Additional details on the scam, including how much money the group was allegedly able to obtain, was not included in the indictment. According to reporting from the Sentinel-Tribune in Wood County, Ohio, three of the defendants were also indicted in Ohio last year on various charges involving a scam with Walmart counterfeit cash credit cards. [Source: MLive]

The latest retailer to go bankrupt

Claire’s Stores Inc., known for tween jewelry and ear piercing, has become the latest victim of the retail apocalypse. The company filed for bankruptcy Monday and said it reached an agreement with creditors including its private-equity backer, Apollo Global Management LLC, to restructure around $1.9 billion in debt. Its plan to survive rests on its reputation for trendy merchandise and a unique service that it says can’t be replicated by shopping online: ear piercing. “To date, the company estimates that it has pierced over 100,000,000 ears worldwide,” Claire’s Chief Financial Officer Scott Huckins said in court papers as part of the Delaware Chapter 11 filing. The company began piercing ears in 1978. But even a business model that “remains a compelling proposition over the long term” wasn’t enough to immunize the company from a decline in mall traffic, which fell around 8 percent year-over-year, Huckins said in a court affidavit. The company also had too much debt, costing it $183 million a year alone in interest payments, he said. Claire’s is the latest in a string of recent US retail bankruptcies including children’s clothing chain Gymboree, athletic gear seller the Sports Authority and toy seller Toys ‘‘R’’ Us.  [Source: Bloomberg]

Data misuse by Cambridge Analytica not a breach, Facebook says

Facebook wants you to know… this wasn’t a breach. Yes, Cambridge Analytica, the data-analysis firm that helped President Donald Trump win the 2016 election, violated rules when it obtained information from some 50 million Facebook profiles, the social-media company acknowledged late Friday. But the data came from someone who didn’t hack the system: a professor who originally told Facebook he wanted it for academic purposes. He set up a personality quiz using tools that let people log in with their Facebook accounts, then asked them to sign over access to their friend lists and likes before using the app. The 270,000 users of that app and their friend networks opened up private data on 50 million people, according to the New York Times. All of that was allowed under Facebook’s rules, until the professor handed the information off to a third party. Facebook said it found out about Cambridge Analytica’s access in 2015, after which it had the firm certify that it deleted the data. On Friday, Facebook said it now knows Cambridge actually kept it—an infraction that got Cambridge suspended from the social network. Once that was announced, executives quickly moved on to defending Facebook’s security.

“This was unequivocally not a data breach,” longtime Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth said on Twitter. “People chose to share their data with third-party apps and if those third-party apps did not follow the agreements with us/users it is a violation.” Alex Stamos, Facebook’s head of security, echoed the same arguments. Cambridge denied doing anything illegal or using the information in the 2016 presidential election; Facebook says it has no way of knowing how or whether the data was used for targeting in the Trump campaign. Facebook’s advertising business depends on users sharing their most personal data via its social network. But the company’s “not a breach” argument isn’t likely to make users feel any safer or more comfortable doing so—especially given that it’s already under fire for missing that Russian actors were purchasing US election ads on the site to sway voter opinions, as well as running fake accounts disguised as real Americans. The company has also been fending off accusations that it’s too slow to notice or react to harmful content. [Source: Carrier Management]

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