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ORC 8-1-16




Six member fraud gang busted for $9M scheme
Hit Home Depot & Target Stores

The owner of Smiles II go-go bar and five others charged after a 10-month investigation called "Operation Smiles" led by the Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau and the Roxbury Police Department.

According to an Attorney General release, the probe revealed that, over a period of four years, the defendants conspired to steal more than $9 million by defrauding retailers, banks, credit card processing companies and credit card holders. The scheme involved the use of stolen credit cards and fraudulently obtained credit cards. The credit cards were used to purchase pre-paid gift cards issued by credit companies such as Master Card and Visa at various retail stores, including Target and Home Depot.

The release said the gift cards were later "cashed in" through phony transactions at Smiles II, and the proceeds were allegedly divided between the individuals who supplied the cards, including Rodriguez and Turner, and Lipka and his partners at Smiles II.

The probe also showed that individuals, including Rodriguez and Turner, also allegedly used stolen credit cards to buy high-priced merchandise at retail stores, particularly Home Depot. The merchandise was later returned for in-store credit that could be used later, or for in-store gift cards that could be exchanged for cash on the Internet. In other cases.

The investigation further revealed that the defendants allegedly acquired gift cards through various other criminal schemes. In one scheme, vehicles were fraudulently offered for sale through eBay and Craigslist. Unsuspecting purchasers would be directed to pay for the vehicle with pre-paid gift cards from credit companies such as Master Card and Visa, and those gift cards also were allegedly processed through Smiles II. The vehicles were never shipped to the victims.

Iowa City, IA: Casey General employee, boyfriend and Mother attempt to cash in on a stolen $250,000 Lottery Ticket
A Casey's General employee is charged with stealing a winning $250,000 instant scratch ticket and working with her boyfriend and mother in an attempt to claim the prize. Prosecutors allege that Casey's General Store employee Ashley Bosler, 20, found the winning ticket by scratching off a corner and scanning the bar code that confirmed that it was a winner of the game's top prize. She allegedly hadn't paid for the ticket and was too young to play, so she asked a co-worker to sign it and eventually her boyfriend, who tried to claim it. Lottery officials refused to approve the payout after noticing scribbling on the back of the ticket.

Covina, CA: Teens busted for stealing $3,000 in razors, baby formula, Rogaine; hitting Rite Aid and Vons
Police jailed three Anaheim teenagers Saturday amid an alleged massive theft spree in which they collected more than $3,000 worth of razors, baby formula and Rogaine from stores in Covina, Glendora and La Habra. Rite Aid first called police about 3 p.m. to report three young women had just tried to steal a large amount of razors from the store, but dropped the goods and fled empty-handed. Security watched as the trio went across the street into a Vons supermarket and pointed them out to arriving police officers. Police pulled over the suspects' car and detained them. A large amount of baby formula believed to have been stolen from the Vons was recovered from the car, police said. "A further search of the car located six 30-gallon trash bags filled with stolen property," police said.

Holmdel, NJ: Best Buy shoplifters get violent in Holmdel, same suspect hit Target in Middletown
Two men stole from the Holmdel Best Buy Friday night, and one of them elbowed and pushed two store employees to the ground as they ran out the door, police said. The same men are suspected of shoplifting from several local Targets as well, including the Target in Middletown. The two suspects were stopped by two loss-prevention officers as they were walking out of the Best Buy in Holmdel. The two men had shoplifted video games, computer parts and HDMI cables worth several hundred dollars. Both men were arrested in the parking lot of the Best Buy. They were charged with robbery; each man had an anti-shoplifting device on him, police said.

Owasso, OK: One arrested, two loose after Old Navy theft and Police Chase
Owasso police arrested one person after a chase that started in Owasso, went through Sperry and ended in Tulsa. One person, Jeakila Fowlkes, arrested, two jumped out of the car and ran. Police say the three are suspected of grabbing thousands in merchandise from an Owasso Old Navy before running from the store. Police say they threw clothes out of the car during the chase. One person is jail, two others on the loose after police say the group stole $2300 in a grab-and-go theft at an Owasso Old Navy.

Two area people have pleaded guilty to federal charges; $40,000 Interstate Theft Ring hitting Lowes and Home Depot
Lamont William Hall, 25, pleaded to conspiracy to transport stolen property on July 11 in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids. Jatoya West, 28, pleaded to the same charge on July 7. Sentencing will be at a later date. Cases remain pending against three others charged in the case Paris Lawrence, Megan Ware and Devin Dawson. Authorities allege the group stole more than $40,000 worth of items from numerous Lowe's stores and one Home Depot store in Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin between February and May. Authorities said West was identified on video 31 times stealing from Lowe's stores in five states, and Hall was identified on video 22 times.

Greenville, NC: 6 arrests made in connection to theft of 27 handguns
Five teens have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the burglary and theft of 27 handguns from a Greenville-area sporting goods store. The incident took place Friday, July 22 at about 1:40 a.m., after four unknown male suspects smashed through the front door glass of the Artemus Outfitters.

Newark, CA: GameStop offers reward in East Bay armed robbery spree
GameStop is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a man suspected of multiple armed robberies, police said Friday. The most recent incident was reported July 19 at the GameStop located at Jarvis Avenue, according to Newark police. The unidentified suspect entered the store, brandished a handgun and fled with merchandise and cash. The same suspect committed a similar robbery at the same store in February 2015.

ORC 8-1-16
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