Breaking News in the Industry: July 19, 2018

Couple indicted for $1.5M in credit card fraud

A Phoenix couple allegedly stole money from hundreds of consumers during a spree that lasted almost a year, according to a federal indictment that was filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona. The couple worked hard at their thefts, eventually amassing a total of $1.5 million in stolen funds, according to lawyers on both sides of the case. To reach that total, they utilized nearly 2,000 stolen credit card numbers or credit cards. They used the stolen cards to take out cash.

But the couple, Dewayne Frederick Johnson and Antoinette Suzanne Arangua, reportedly went beyond what the average thief would do with a credit card. The charges state they took other credit cards and encoded the stolen numbers onto them. Then they did a trial run with the stolen numbers at gas stations and stores before using them to make bigger purchases, according to the Phoenix New Times.

The couple allegedly had quite an operation, using a credit card encoder, credit card embossers, and other items to perpetrate their fraud. The thefts reportedly occurred in Phoenix and Tucson. Upon capture, the couple was charged with conspiracy, possession of illegal equipment, counterfeit cards, and devices, as well as four counts of aggravated ID theft, according to the article.

During a recent court appearance, Johnson pleaded guilty to one conspiracy count. As part of a plea bargain, the other charges were dropped. At his sentencing, Johnson could receive a prison sentence of up to five years, the Phoenix New Times reported. While pleading guilty to the charge, Johnson explained how he pulled off the thefts and implicated Arangua in the crimes as well. They would test the cards on small purchases at Phoenix gas stations and keep using the cards until they learned the banks hadn’t caught on by canceling them.

When they felt they were in the clear, he said they took the fake cards to grocery stores and used them to buy gift cards and prepaid debit cards. Cases of synthetic identity theft have increased in the last year from 2016, according to an earlier LendEDU report. Then they would take the gift cards to busy gas stations, get a small amount of gas, and ask for the balance in cash, according to the charges. They focused on busy attendants because they would be less likely to question the purchase. After the card companies would figure out they had been defrauded, they would freeze the accounts and the couple would start over with other cards.   [Source: LendEDU]

Fleeing shoplifter threatened to kill LP associate… twice

A man who fled a New Jersey department store after shoplifting also threatened a loss prevention employee multiple times, police said. The theft happened July 13 at the Kohl’s near the Routes 70 and 73 intersections in Evesham Township. The man, believed to be in his 20s, entered the store with a girl who was six or seven years old. He was shoplifting merchandise when a loss prevention associate confronted him and they struggled. The man made threats to kill the LP associate if he tried to stop him.

Not long after that, the man called the store and asked for the loss prevention employee, and again threatened death if he was reported to police. Evesham Township Police posted pictures of the man on Facebook checking out some black Nike socks. They ask anyone with information to contact them at 856.983.1116 or their anonymous tip line, 856.983.4699, email Facebook@Eveshampd.org or text ETPDTIP to 847411.  [Source: NJ.com]

Two employees charged with embezzlement

Two Lafayette County Tennessee men are behind bars, accused of stealing nearly $2,500 from their employer. Loss prevention associates with the Oxford Walmart filled a report on July 5 stating that two employees were stealing merchandise while at work. According to the report. Keltrick Harden, 26, of Oxford, stole $1,011.87 worth of merchandise and Kewan Owens, 22, of Oxford, stole $1,445.04 worth of merchandise. The thefts allegedly occurred over a two-month period. Harden and Owens were arrested on July 12 on the felony warrants and transported to the Lafayette County Detention Center. Harden received a bond of $1,000 and Owens received a bond of $1,500 during their initial appearance in justice court. [Source: The Daily Journal]

Romanian child found holding thousands in cash, fraudulent credit cards

An 18-year-old Romanian national and an 11-year-old Romanian girl detained in Friendswood, Texas, are believed to be part of a large-scale criminal organization, Friendswood police said Tuesday. Fabrizio Victor Slatineo was arrested during a traffic stop Monday after police were alerted to the vehicle by bank employees who said the occupants made suspicious ATM transactions, police said in a release. The child passenger was taken to the police station, where her mother was called and police conducted a search.

Police allegedly found thousands of dollars in cash and credit card blanks hidden in a pouch underneath the girl’s floor-length skirt. All of the credit card blanks had credit card numbers programmed into them. The two suspects are believed to be part of a larger organization stealing debit and credit card numbers, cloning the cards and going from bank to bank withdrawing thousands of dollars in cash daily, police said. Slatineo, who is wanted by Interpol, was found to have fake Romanian identification. He is charged with possession of incomplete credit/debit cards and his bond is set at $60,000. Children’s Protective Services spoke with the girl’s mother and then took the child into custody, police said.

While Slatineo’s current charges are in Galveston County, Houston Police and Harris County are investigating similar criminal activity in the Houston area. In June 2018, three Romanian men were ordered to prison for placing card skimmers and cameras on ATMs to steal money from bank accounts. Cristian Viorel Ciobanu, 31, Daniel Marius Muraretu, 40, and Bogdan Mirel Constantin, 34, were part of a group that traveled to the United States and then to Pennsylvania, Virginia and Texas to steal money from victims’ bank accounts. They used fake cards and stolen PINs to steal at least $390,495 from victims’ bank accounts.   [Source: LMT Online]

New policing measures helping to curb issue of shoplifting

Shoplifting, car break-ins, even strong-armed robberies. Not exactly what you expect when you head to Walmart. But that’s exactly what shoppers have come to expect at the Walmart in Stapleton in recent years. So much so that Denver City Council is considering renewing a contract to provide police protection at that store, which is something Walmart has agreed to pay for through reimbursement to the city. This Walmart location off Smith Road was one of the worst in the nation for crime, Denver police said. A few years ago, it ranked in the top five percent of Walmarts nationwide for shoplifting, according to The Denver Post.

Walmart management said some of the most commonly stolen items include cosmetics, razors, meat, and baby formula. But, the crime wave goes beyond shoplifting. A 70-year-old woman was attacked in the parking lot after she had just cashed a tax check worth more than $4,000. Another woman, Star Lacrue, had her car broken into last year in the parking lot and someone stole her 10-month-old baby’s oxygen machine. “He has apnea. So, when you fall asleep, you stop breathing,” she said. “Right now, you can tell he’s OK. But, when he’s sleeping, everything gets scary.”

Theft has decreased at the location since Walmart agreed to hire off-duty Denver cops, said Lt. Bob Wyckoff with the Denver Police Department.
The city says the current contract pays the city about $285,000 per year to ensure cops patrol the store seven days a week. The store was, by a long shot, the worst in the city for shoplifting with 283 reported cases in one year alone, according to The Denver Post. That’s 179 more than the second-highest shoplifting location in the city for that year, the Rite Aid on the 16th Street Mall.

The Stapleton Walmart reported to police that it loses $1.5 million each year to theft. Location is certainly a part of the issue. The Walmart sits right off I-70 and Quebec, making for a quick getaway for thieves, Wyckoff said. It also has a high transient population and is just a mile or so from the county jail.  Frustrated by the high number of calls, police have staged empty squad cars in front of the doors, but those, too, have become victims of crime, Wyckoff said. They’re often spit on and kicked. Denver7 reached out to Walmart for comment Monday and did not hear back.

Walmart now pays Denver police to patrol inside and outside this store, mainly after dark. Denver City Council will vote to continue or discontinue that contract Monday night. It’s expected to pass. Wyckoff said before that contract, on-duty officers found themselves at that store “all the time” for theft, aggravated assault and other crimes. “It was draining our resources in that district,” he said. “Officers on-duty were constantly there.” Then, about two years ago, Wyckoff developed a working relationship with Walmart management to come up with a crime prevention plan. He said he insisted that Walmart hire officers to work there. Eventually, the two sides agreed.

The DPD also worked with Walmart to improve lighting at the store and lock one of the main entrances after dark. Officers walk the aisles while on shift and talk with customers. Police and Walmart management identified the top 100 items that were common for theft and placed signs next to each one indicating police were watching. And so far, Wyckoff said those measures are working.     [Source: Denver7 News]

Brazen booze shoplifter sentenced to two years in prison

The Shreveport, Louisiana, woman who shoplifted 11 bottles of booze by concealing the loot in her bra and her pants has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to two years in prison for that liquor-store crime and for shoplifting meat and baby formula from a supermarket. Sekonie Jones, 38, of the 3800 block of Murvon Street, pleaded guilty in Caddo District Court to theft of goods and misdemeanor theft. Judge John Mosely ordered her taken to jail after the guilty plea. Jones still faces charges she shoplifted a buggy full of merchandise from a Bossier City supermarket. She was free on bond on the Shreveport charges at the time.

Video of the liquor theft at Thrifty Liquor on Bert Kouns Industrial Loop in Shreveport last August shows a woman brazenly stowing bottles of booze in her clothes. She took a bottle of wine to the register to buy it before casually walking out of the store with the rest. The escapade was caught in its entirety on store security cameras. The woman started by putting liquor bottles in her purse, then in her pants and bra as she moved from shelf to shelf. A younger woman, apparently an accomplice, stood watching at one point before following the woman out of the store. After the shoplifting video was released by CrimeStoppers, an individual identifying herself as Jones said in a social media post that stealing is “what I do.”

The Bossier City shoplifting occurred in March at Kroger on Airline Drive. Police said Jones and a companion loaded $341 worth of merchandise into a shopping cart and walked out with it. Police got a description of the getaway car and stopped it in nearby Green Acres subdivision. Police said they searched Jones’ purse and found crack cocaine. Jones has nine previous arrests for shoplifting in Shreveport and Bossier City in the past nine years, in addition to other arrests including disturbing the peace, theft, battery and receiving stolen goods, police and court records show.    [Source: KTBS3 News]

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