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Criminal Charges: Volume VII

Jeremy Simon

Credit card crimes happen all across the country, but this week I’ve decided to focus on those stories from the East Coast of the United States. We’ve got generous thieves from the Bronx, an extreme example of customer service from a Circuit City in New York state, illegal window tints and strange smells yielding fake credit cards in Florida and theft victims who just don’t take my advice in North Carolina.

Gas thieves get generous
A pair of thieves from the Bronx, N.Y., apparently decided to get generous with a stolen credit card.

According to LoHud.com, Christian Escotto and Joseph Rosario were arrested at 1:15 a.m. on Thursday and charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property — a felony — after several drivers charged their fill-ups at a Mamaroneck, N.Y., gas station to the stolen plastic. “Lt. James Gaffney said multiple cars had used the same credit card at the 974 Mamaroneck Ave. Shell Station, and the station alerted police,” the Web site says.

Faced with expensive gasoline, it seems even criminals are coming up with ways to help other consumers alleviate their pain at the pump. This duo will probably have plenty of time to think up other ways to be helpful (paying expired parking meters, helping old ladies across the street, etc.) while they are behind bars.

Store returns earn criminal $100,000
For a criminal in New Rochelle, N.Y., the ability to return products to a Circuit City electronics store was part of a scam that earned him about $100,000.

Clarkstown, N.Y., police say Thomas DeJulio stole merchandise from a local Circuit City store beginning in 2006. He later sold some of the merchandise on eBay or Craigslist, based on records of business transaction recovered from DeJulio’s computer.

“DeJulio would buy Circuit City merchandise with his credit card and take it home, Clarkstown police Detective Lt. Charles Delo said. A few days later he would return to the store, take a similar item off the floor and go to the return desk,” Delo tells LoHud.com (aka my new go-to source for credit card crime stories).

I’ve heard of customer service, but Circuit City’s approach is just ridiculous: Complaining that he was unhappy with his purchase, DeJulio “would give the cashier the receipt and the item he just picked up, seeking a refund and wiping out his credit card debt on the original item he bought, Delo said.”

While Circuit City obviously went along with the scheme for some time, a store eventually manager got suspicious and began an investigation into DeJulio’s returns, which included over $8,000 worth of merchandise since March and a $1,245 return for a 32-inch Toshiba television on Sept. 6. The manager then phoned DeJulio to confront him and demand that the television be returned or else face exposure.

Police were waiting for DeJulio when he brought the television back to the store on Tuesday.

“DeJulio is charged with third-degree grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property, and nine counts of first-degree falsifying business records,” the Web site says.

Tints, odors yield phony credit cards
If you’re looking to pull off a credit card scam in Florida, avoid darkened windows or funny smells. In two separate but similar incidents last week in Naples, Fla., illegal window tints and the police’s sensitive sniffers turned up phony gift cards and credit cards.

In the first incident, on Wednesday night, “deputies conducted a traffic stop on a 1994 pickup for illegal window tint, an inoperative plate light and failure to maintain a single lane, according to an arrest report,” reports NaplesNews.com. “While speaking to the driver, Orlando Borras, 25, of Tampa, deputies smelled a strong odor of marijuana.”

That led to a vehicle search, during which deputies discovered more than 10 seemingly fraudulent credit cards and gift cards. “Deputies ran the cards through a credit card reader and determined that the information on the magnetic strip didn’t match the information on the front,” says NaplesNews.com. “Borras was arrested and charged with possession of counterfeit credit cards.”

A traffic stop the following night for illegal tints also yielded a funny funk. “The driver, Andres R. Penates, 40, of Miami, appeared nervous, reports said. Deputies also found a tank in the bed of the pickup that smelled like diesel fuel,” reports NaplesNews. The driver’s nervous behavior and a prior arrest for credit card fraud in Kentucky made the deputies ask to search Penates.

It was a fruitful search: “In his two wallets six fraudulent gift cards and credit cards. Additional cards were located in the center console and under the front visor. Again, the information on the magnetic strips did not match the information on the front of the cards.,” the Web site says. “Penates was charged with possession of counterfeit credit cards and unlawful conveyance of fuel.”

I’ve said it before…
This isn’t the first time I’ve urged readers not to leave credit cards and debit cards unattended in their vehicles, but some people just don’t listen (or are completely unaware of this column).

The ChapelHillNews.com police blotter for Chapel Hill, N.C., includes these recent robberies: “An unlocked door was opened and someone stole a purse, $300 cash, a credit card, a debit card, a bracelet, three pairs of earrings, a driver’s license and a $1,000 check and car keys from a vehicle on East Franklin Street. A cell phone was stolen from an unlocked car on Taylor Street. Twenty-five credit or debit cards and $150 cash were stolen from another unlocked car on Leclair Street. Someone broke into a car on Dawes Street and stole four credit or debit cards. And an ashtray and GPS unit were stolen from an unlocked vehicle in a Longleaf Drive parking lot.”

Twenty-five cards stolen from a single unlocked car — what are these drivers thinking?!?

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