Four people are facing charges of organized retail crime and identity theft at various Bay area and Central Florida JCPenney stores. Three of the suspects have been taken into custody while a fourth is still being sought. The Sheriff’s Office said that the investigation found that the suspects had worked together stealing the identities and personal information of sixty people and used that information to defraud various JCPenney stores in eleven counties. The suspects fraudulently purchased merchandise with credit cards in other people’s names, and then exchanged that merchandise for gift cards or cash at JCPenney stores. They would then sell the gift cards for cash at a discounted rate.
The arrested suspects are Aramis Shantel Nelson, 26, Charles Gibson, 30, and Da Jah Charisse Scott, 30. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is still searching for Shykiah Rosetta Samoya Byrd, 26.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 stores in Polk County that were victims of theft. These stores are located Lakeland, Davenport, and Lake Wales. The other JCPenney Stores were located in Duval, Clay, Lake, Pinellas, Pasco, Volusia, Orange, Osceola, and Hillsborough County. “This investigation turned up 60 victims of identity theft from all over the United States, and the numerous JCPenney stores across Florida,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. “But it doesn’t stop there, because when stores lose money like this, it eventually costs us all.”
The investigation began on March 21 when JCPenney contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office about fraudulent activity at their stores. Between October 26 and April 3, Nelson, Scott, Byrd, Gibson and possibly others, were responsible for making 65 separate fraudulent transactions online to purchase $21,555 worth of JCPenney merchandise using someone else’s credit/debit card information. Fifteen of those occurred in Polk County. The suspects were able to obtain 32 JCPenney gift cards totaling around $10,458 that were exchanged for fraudulently purchased merchandise, three cash refunds totaling $877 and one transaction valued at $303 where the merchandise was returned for either cash or a JCPenney gift card. Twenty-two of the fraudulently obtained JCPenney gift cards were sold at the Tampa Gift Card King store in Tampa for a total of $4,729. [Source: Spectrum News 9]