At least 157 people have been victimized by a counterfeit credit card scheme, according to charges filed against five men arrested in Minnesota.
The suspects, all from Las Vegas, are charged with felony identity theft. (Criminal complaints against the men are included below).
That's after charges say police found them in possession of well over 150 credit cards – in their name, but using someone else's card information. More than $20,000 worth of purchased gift cards was also found, the criminal complaints say.
In all, authorities say they have identified 157 individuals – so far – that have been victimized by the scheme.
Earlier this fall, a federal report found about one in every 14 people was a victim of identity theft last year.
According to the charges:
The men were seen at the Eagan Sam's Club on Dec. 21, making "repeated purchases of large amounts of gift cards" using multiple credit cards, a security employee told police. And about an hour earlier, a group matching their description had bought about $7,000 worth of gift cards at the Apple Valley location.
Officers identified the suspects' vehicle and pulled it over. The five occupants were searched, and police found a total of 27 credit cards – all but one of them determined to be counterfeit.
One of the men, Heredy Gutierrez-Arregui, later told investigators in an interview that they'd gotten an email asking if they wanted a work opportunity in Minnesota. They traveled to the state, met a contact, then waited in a motel room until a package was delivered – containing about 200 credit cards, about 40 apiece in each man's name.
They were told to use them to buy gift cards, which they'd then split with the "employer."
Police then used a search warrant to look through the vehicle. Inside they found another 126 counterfeit credit cards, plus gift cards totaling $21,000 in value.
Here are the five suspects and the charges filed against them:
July Antonio Avila – Identity Theft [Criminal complaint]
Giraldo Salas Avila – Identity Theft [Criminal complaint]
Heredy Gutierrez-Arregui – Identity Theft [Criminal complaint]
Alberto Perez-Martin – Identity Theft [Criminal complaint]
Osvaldo Pilas-Rojas – Identity Theft [Criminal complaint]