Thursday, February 10, 2011

Undercover Sting Busts Credit, Gift Card Scheme

Criminals beware. It’s usually not a good idea to try fraudulent schemes in the same building as the Queens District Attorney’s office. Two Brooklyn men were charged with attempting to use stolen credit cards to purchase thousands of dollars worth of Duane Reade gift cards in Kew Gardens, which shares a building with the DA.

“The defendants could not have made it any easier for the investigators involved in the undercover operation to effectuate their arrest,” Brown said, noting how the arrests occurred right outside of his office.

According to District Attorney Richard Brown, two Duane Reade employees were contacted via Facebook to assist them in using stolen credit cards for gift card purchases. “Do U wanna make 300 a week while @ work,” the messages read. “I want [you] 2 ring me up as I buy gift cards on credit gwap [a street term for illegal credit cards].”

The employees alerted their manager who contacted the DA. At the direction of the State Police, the employee told the suspect—identified on Facebook as Carlos Escobar Bigante but later identified as Carl Dupiton, 21—that he knew a friend who could help him.

The friend, an undercover investigator, allegedly had multiple phone conversations with the man where he allegedly said they would spend as much as $3,000 a day on gift cards.

The undercover investigator allegedly set up a meeting on February 1, 2011, at the Kew Gardens store where a man matching Carlos Escobar Bigante’s Facebook picture arrived. Bigante allegedly left the store and a second suspect, Garry Rey, 22, allegedly approached the undercover investigator and stated he was part of the plot.

Rey proceeded to use more than 10 different credit cards to purchase Ebay and Paypal gift cards, but only the first transaction for $404 was accepted, Brown said.

Rey left the store where he was arrested along with Dupiton. Police allegedly recovered 18 gift cards with a value of $3,350, as well as the credit and debit cards he had purportedly used in the store.

Rey was ordered held without bail, and bail for Dupiton was set at $150,000. Both men face charges of criminal possession of a forged instrument, grand larceny, commercial bribing, petit larceny and scheme to defraud. They face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico praised the Duane Reade employees who helped them with their undercover operation. “The early reporting by Duane Reade Pharmacy’s employees of the scheme ... was key to this arrest operation,” D’Amico said. “This shows the importance of the public’s role in assisting law enforcement in efforts to prevent this and other types of fraud.”

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