Boise bust exposes how organized credit card scams work

Thursday , May 17, 2012 - 3:39 PM

Patrick Orr

BOISE-- David S. Bonilla and Hugo R. Aguilar Jr. are being held in the Ada County Jail on two counts each of felony burglary after Boise police say they caught the men with dozens of fake credit cards which they used to buy thousands of dollars worth of gift cards and other items from local stores.

Boise police began their investigation of 44-year-old Bonilla and 35-year-old Aguilar around 4 p.m. after officers saw them leave a Towne Square Mall area store with multiple bags and items that didn't seem to match what men their age would buy, said Curt Crum, the supervisor of the crime prevention unit with the Boise police.

Officers quickly figured out the men appeared to be using fake credit cards to buy stuff from area stores -- including clothes and gift cards -- and were able warn employees at another store right before they tried to use the fake cards again, according to reports.

Police pulled the pair over moments later and found several hundred dollars worth of clothes and dozens of fake credit cards in the car. The pair were then arrested and booked into the jail.

Other charges are expected to be filed against both men, as being in possession of fake credit card is a crime. If the value of items that were purchased with the fake cards was in excess of $1,000, which appears to be the case, then felony grand theft charges are also possible.

Police say the men, who are both from Southern California, appear to have been in the Boise area since Monday running the scam, which involves identity theft, stolen credit card numbers, and fake ID's.

This is how the scam works:

Organized crime organizations and other crooks acquire legitimate credit card account numbers stolen from unsuspecting victims. Then they buy loadable credit cards from stores, replace those account numbers with the stolen account numbers, put a fake name on those cards, and create a fake ID with the same name with the picture of people they send out to stores all over the western U.S.

Those people use the fake cards as many times at they can at as many stores as possible, with the emphasis on buying store gift cards for amounts which can reach several hundred dollars each. When they can't use those fake credit cards with the stolen account numbers anymore, they ditch the cards. At that point, the scam leaders then send new sets of fake cards and fake ID's through mail services like FedEx to their thieves in the field, who do the same scam all over again.

Crum said the thieves don't usually stay in any one town for more than three days before leaving and trying the scams somewhere else. In this particular scam, the credit cards don't work with a magnetic strip, as the numbers must be entered manually by store clerks.

Once they get the gift cards and other times, the thieves then sell them to others for cash or send them back to ring leaders, who do the same thing.?

Boise police make dozens of arrests each year for people who come from major urban areas like Southern California and attempt to run such credit card fraud and other similar scams at area stores. Crum says this is possible because of the strong working relationship Boise police have with local retailers.

"We have a great relationship with our retailers -- in fact, we were able to call one of the stores we watched (Aguilar and Bonilla)?walk in to warn them about what was going on," Crum said.

Police know there are multiple fraud rings like this in the western U.S. and work hard to bust as many of them as possible, Crum said. Police do not suspect there are any other people working directly with Aguilar and Bonilla in Boise at this time.

Aguilar and Bonilla will make their initial court appearances Thursday afternoon. The crime of burglary is punishable by up to 10 years in prison for each count.

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(c)2012 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

Visit The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho) at www.idahostatesman.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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