July 16, 2008

Fraud probe

July 16, 2008 12:04 pm

Fraud probe

Two arrested in international bogus credit card operation

San Marcos — San Marcos Police have arrested two men in connection with international credit card fraud, recovering more than 50 illegally manufactured credit cards and more than $27,000 in illegally purchased electronics and clothes.

Jailed at the Hays County Law Enforcement Center under bonds totaling $310,000 each are Hector Gomez, 37, and Gabriel Rivas, 31, of Guadalajara, Mexico.

They have been charged with three counts of credit card abuse, a state jail felony, and one count of theft under $100,000, a third degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

On Thursday, July 10, a Michigan man called Best Buy in San Marcos to inform the store that his credit card had been fraudulently used to make a purchase, Police Commander Terry Nichols said.

The victim's credit card company had notified him of the purchase in San Marcos and he called the store to verify the fraudulent activity.

The suspects returned to the store Friday and employees recognized the men as they attempted to make additional purchases on different credit cards. The employees notified police who responded to the scene.

Investigators discovered that the men had more than 50 credit cards in their possession, said Nichols. When they searched the Hummer SUV rented by the two men, police found more than $27,000 worth of electronics and clothes in the vehicle.

"We have learned from our investigation that these two suspects have made at least five trips to San Marcos and Central Texas in recent months to buy merchandise with illegally manufactured credit cards and then taking the goods back to Mexico to sell," Nichols said.

The cards had been purchased by the men in Mexico using their real names, but containing credit card data from unsuspecting victims from across the United States and possibly other countries.

"We have identified one victim in Michigan and two in California at this time," Nichols said. "We have many more victims to track down and are working closely with numerous banks and financial institutions across the country to locate these victims of identity and credit card theft."

The electronics recovered by police include laptop computers, a television, movies, electronic games, MP3 players, digital cameras and computer accessories. Most had been purchased from Best Buy stores in San Marcos and Austin.

The clothes had been purchased with the illegal credit cards from stores at the outlet malls in San Marcos, Nichols said.

The credit cards contain electronic information stolen from victims and inserted on the back of fake credit cards made in Mexico.

The San Marcos Police are working with Secret Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and are continuing their investigation.

"Identity theft and credit card fraud are major problems," Nichols said. "This case reminds us that people need to be extremely vigilant with their personal financial information."

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