Parents purchasing prepaid money cards for children heading off to college need to beware of a scam believed to be operating between Milledgeville and Atlanta.
A Governor’s Office of Highway Safety checkpoint in Eatonton earlier this month netted 149 stolen Green Dot cards and a ledger book detailing a criminal theft operation, said Capt. Brad King, of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office.
Henry Rodrigo Marguilies, 44, of Norcross, was arrested July 19 after investigators uncovered the scheme.
He is currently charged with three counts of financial card theft, one for each of the Milledgeville stores where cards were taken.
Cards shoplifted from store shelves were tampered with and replaced so that shoppers could purchase them and electronically add money to them, King said.
Marguilies, or an accomplice, is believed to have removed the magnetic strip hiding the numeric pass code, copied the card number in the ledger, then replaced the strip before restocking the cards.
Scammers would wait a while for the cards to be purchased, then use the toll-free number and code to check balances and remove any money on the card.
“Once they got one draw on it, they didn’t call back,” King said.
Consumers who legally purchased the cards would find a zero balance when they tried to use them.
Judging by the ledger, King believes Marguilies hit multiple locations including CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid and Kroger stores between Milledgeville and Atlanta.
There were multiple addresses listed including ones in Madison, Macon, Conyers, Douglas County and along the Interstate 20 corridor around Atlanta.
“Some of the cards they had with them came from a store in Barnesville,” King said.
Baldwin sheriff’s Lt. Bobby Langford, a member of the U.S. Secret Service’s Organized Fraud Task Force, has been working with other jurisdictions on the case.
The Bibb County Sheriff’s Office has not detected evidence of a similar scam operating around Macon, but prepaid cards are popular with criminals, said Lt. Sean DeFoe, a public information officer for the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.
“They use those type cards in other identity fraud cases because they can’t be traced,” DeFoe said.
Baldwin County’s case could eventually be transferred to federal authorities because of the scope of the alleged wire fraud, King said.
“If they can prove he moved any money with a telephone, which should be easy to prove with the ledger, that would be wire fraud,” he said.
No one in Baldwin County has come forward yet with a claim their prepaid card has been cleared, but there could be victims in other parts of the state.
“What they took from our store, they might have put back in a store near Atlanta,” he said. “Our victim is the store because it was a theft from the store.”
The Green Dot Corp. website offers security tips to secure online account information, but does not warn of the type scam uncovered by Baldwin investigators.
A Telegraph inquiry to the company was not immediately answered.
King offers this advice: “If I was going to purchase that card, I would examine it very well to make sure that sticker that covers the PIN has not been messed with,” he said. “Buy from behind the counter or inside case.”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.