Officials with the Tigard Police Department in Tigard, Oregon, recently began a gift card fraud investigation into a possible organized retail theft incident that took place at Apple Stores at Washington Square Mall and Bridgeport Village.
On December 4, a detective observed a man using large stacks of gift cards to pay for his purchases, which can be indicative of criminal activity. When officials followed the suspect outside, they noted that his car was full of Apple shopping bags.
According to The Tigard-Tualatin Times, police stopped the man, along with an alleged accomplice, outside the mall parking lot on Highway 217. Nearly 470 Apple iPhones were seized from the vehicle, along with roughly $585,000 worth of gift cards and transactional records. The stolen iPhones themselves had an approximate value of $292,000.
A release from the Tigard Police Department reports that information provided by the suspects led investigators to a nearby FedEx store, where they found dozens of additional iPhones ready to ship to Hong Kong.
Police believe that the fraudulent purchases may have been linked to counterfeit credit cards originating in Southern California. The estimated total value of the fraudulent purchases may reach $750,000. Police are partnering with other agencies to continue the fraud investigation. As of now, no arrests have been made.
Apple products are often hot-ticket items for thieves and fraudsters due to their high cost, with iPhones selling for an average of $670 per unit, according to the retailer’s Q4 2015 report. In another gift card fraud incident in November 2015, for example, an Apple employee was charged with grand larceny and related crimes for allegedly re-encoding counterfeit cards with fraudulently obtained credit card information. In this way, the suspect was able to buy legitimate Apple gift cards worth more than $1 million.
[Photo credit: Tigard Police Department]