By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Investigators say cloning credit cards is one of the most lucrative crimes in America right now.

And on Wednesday, two people connected to an elaborate cloning operation in Minnesota are behind bars.

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Thirty-five-year-old Emile Rey from Chicago and 21-year-old Sade Robinson of Eagan are accused of buying stolen information and using it to create cloned credit cards.

Investigators say people are hopping on planes to spend a few days in another city to cause harm with credit cards.

“This is a part of organized crime that’s going on all across America,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said. “It’s organized crime that is stealing people’s identity They do this by hacking into businesses.”

Backstrom said the latest case to cross his desk involves two people who were tracked buying thousands of dollars worth of gift cards with fake, cloned credit cards.

“These people are pretty sophisticated,” he said. “They can produce cloned credit cards quickly and sell those cards to other people.”

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According to court documents, Rey and Robinson got the credit card numbers from the Home Depot data breach. They then took the information and created fake cards.

The cards were used in 15 different cities, from Shakopee to Stillwater.

A victim alerted police to what was going on and investigators then used a tracking device on Robinson’s car to see where she and Rey were shopping.

“This case involves potentially over 100 victims, and it’s an ongoing investigation,” Backstrom said. “We have not found all of the victims in this case.”

So far 35 victims have been identified, but prosecutors expect to find even more victims as their investigation continues.

Backstrom said most victims don’t know their identity has been stolen because they actually have the credit card in question in their wallet. He said the best way to protect yourself is to pay close attention to your credit and debit card statements. Make sure you actually purchased everything it says you bought.

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If convicted, Rey and Robinson each could spend four to five years in prison.

Reg Chapman