MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 20-year-old Maryland man and 24-year-old New York woman are accused of attempting to use stolen credit cards at a store in Eagan late last week, according to charges filed Tuesday in Dakota County Court.
Hasohn Jamal Douglas and Arione Sabine Anis have each been charged with one felony count of identity theft involving more than $35,000 or more than eight victims in connection with the incident, which happened last Thursday.
According to a criminal complaint, Eagan police were called to a store at about 3:01 p.m. last Thursday on a report of credit card fraud. A store manager told police that the suspects came into the store and made several purchases with different credit cards. Several of those cards were declined.
The complaint states the store manager saw the man and woman, later identified as Douglas and Anis, go to the gift card display and then to the greeting cards area. The man then checked out with the cashier at the photo lab inside the store, and the woman went to a cashier by the store’s main entrance.
Douglas made four purchases with several credit cards totaling $168.28. The first three transactions were completed using a credit card to buy gift cards and greeting cards. The fourth transaction was declined.
Douglas then pulled out his wallet and had as many as 30 different types of credit cards. He pulled out three credit cards before the fourth transaction went through, according to the complaint.
The woman used a credit card to purchase gift cards and a “Thank You” card. There were two transactions totaling $122.22. She tried to complete the second transaction with three different credit cards that were all declined, the complaint states.
The store manager then saw the two leave the store and get into a car with an Illinois license plate.
Eagan police soon after spotted the vehicle and initiated a traffic stop after Douglas, the passenger, was not wearing a seat belt.
The complaint states he told police he had a problem with his credit card where he could only use it for transactions of $50 or less at any given time. The officer saw several gift cards in plain sight in the vehicle. There were also bags of plastic cards both on the driver’s door compartment and the rear passenger side floor.
During a search of the vehicle, which was a rental car, officers discovered 19 Visa gift cards in their original packing on the floor and another 29 Visa cards in the back seat, all totaling $25 each. There were more gift cards inside the glove box, on the front passenger-side floor and under the front driver’s seat on the floor, according to the complaint.
An investigation showed the officer believed that the cards were cloned and that after using a card reader device, at last 79 cards taken from the vehicle were fraudulent. Twenty five of those cards listed a name, confirming that they were cloned cards. The officer traced the name back to an Eagan resident, the complaint states.
Douglas told police he knew the female suspect as they were friends and had gone to high school together in Maryland. He said they were in Minnesota for a baby shower and that Anis had told him to purchase 100 $25 gift cards as baby shower gifts. He said he had gone to three stores to purchase gift cards, but was only able to make purchases at one store, the complaint states.
Douglas denied knowing the cards were cloned and denied having as many as 30 gift cards at the Eagan store. A search of his wallet and the vehicle showed at least 20 credit cards or gift cards traced back to the credit information of the Eagan resident.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom says thieves get credit card information from data breaches.
“They get the information and then they have the details of the credit. Then they produce their own clone card with a magnetic strip that has that information on it, and then they will have the person’s name on the front,” Backstrom said. “Most of the victims don’t even know their credit card has been accessed illegally. That’s the danger and scary part of all of this.”
Backstrom says about 15 cities are involved in these identity theft investigations, and there are likely 180 victims or more in the Twin Cities right now.
He says thieves will often fly to cities where identities have been stolen, and use the fake cards there because it looks less suspicious than using them in other parts of the country.
If convicted, Douglas and Anis each face up to 20 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.