PERRY -- A dozen men accused of credit card fraud, including 10 who were arrested in Perry, are believed to be part of a Miami crime ring operating along Interstate 75 from Florida to Ohio, police said.
Perry police made its arrests during the past few months and helped Rincon police arrest two other men in October, said Perry police Capt. Heath Dykes.
Dykes said he suspects the ring operates this way: Stolen information from hundreds of credit cards are transferred to counterfeit credit cards. The counterfeit cards are then used at major retail chains to purchase hundreds of gift cards that are untraceable. The gift cards are then resold elsewhere at a discounted rate.
Perry and Rincon police have seized more than 270 counterfeit credit cards and 270 gift cards, Dykes said. That does not include what was recovered in the most recent arrests Dec. 12 in Perry. Information about the items seized on Dec. 12 was still being compiled.
The arrests are part of an investigation launched in June. Police are working with the U.S. Secret Service, with the assistance of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Dykes said.
All of the Perry incidents took place at the Wal-Mart at 1109 St. Patricks Drive, Dykes said. Watchful store clerks became suspicious of the gift card purchases because the men allegedly were maxing out credit cards on the gift cards.
As soon as one credit card maxed out, the clerk would be handed another one until all the cards were at their limit, Dykes said.
The suspects were watched going to their vehicles. Vehicle descriptions and tag numbers were relayed to Perry police officers, who stopped the vehicles and made the arrests, Dykes said.
Those arrested are all from the Miami area and were charged with financial transaction card forgery, Dykes said.
The 10 arrested in Perry were Osvaldo Gomez, 35, and his father, Barbaro Gomez, 55, on Sept. 10; Noriel Alfonso Veloz, 34, on Oct. 3; Yerandy Calvo, 25, Henry L. Valdes, 22, and Alain Aguilar, 41, on Oct. 12; Ixart Cuenca, 29, on Nov. 15; and Fernando Alvarez-Miranda, 25, Luis San Juan Garcia, 34, and Jose V. Villarreal, 46, on Dec. 12. The two men arrested Oct. 19 in Rincon were Yosvani J. Toledo, 40, and Yohandy S. Alverez, 35, Dykes said.
The ongoing investigation is time consuming and includes tracking down credit card owners, Dykes said. The victims are from all across the country, but there have been no local victims to date, Dykes said.
Dykes said he suspects the stolen consumer information may have been obtained by hacking into bank websites. But he noted that was speculation.
Hacking into websites of banks and retail business are among the most common ways credit card information is stolen, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Another way is Dumpster diving for discarded billing statements or receipts. Dishonest retail clerks or restaurant servers may use skimmer equipment to steal the information off a credit cards magnetic strip or take a photo of the credit card. Information also is stolen through scams in which the consumer is tricked into providing personal and account information by e-mail or telephone, according to the FTC.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.