Arrests Net HCSO with Wide-spread Credit Card Fraud Operation

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Arrests Net HCSO with Wide-spread Credit Card Fraud Operation

What started out as a routine arrest for a fraudulent (merchandise) return/refund operation became a much bigger case for the Hernando County Sheriff's Office (HCSO). They had been investigating a complaint by Bed, Bath and Beyond against 33 year-old Jeansy Cuevas- Padron and 31 year-old Marileisys Rodriguez Serra since August. The pair were accused of using stolen credit card information to purchase items from the merchant, then returning the merchandise to other store locations. The couple would then get gift cards from the store and use them to purchase other items or perhaps sell the gift cards.

The couple was not at home on October 15 when the deputies went to the couple's residence, 1117 Finland Drive, in Spring Hill to arrest them. However, one of the arresting deputies suspected that they might have come upon a “grow house.”



They obtained a warrant to search the house for drugs and returned the following day.

At a press conference on Tuesday, October 17, Sheriff Al Neinhuis explained what happened next.

“In the process of serving the arrest warrants, the deputies did find twelve marijuana plants, a little over eighty pounds total of marijuana.”

However, the case got even more interesting due to a fortunate coincidence.



“My lieutenant in charge of the Vice and Narcotics Unit used to be the sergeant in Economic Crimes. He saw some things that really got his attention. Things that looked like blank credit cards and equipment that might be used to make those fraudulent credit cards,” Neinhuis continued.

The officers stopped their search for those items, contacted Economic Crimes again and got a warrant to specifically search for more evidence. The equipment they found consisted of machines to emboss the cards with credit card numbers and re-program the cards, blank credit cards, a skimming device commonly used at gas stations to steal credit card information and even journals for record-keeping.

The suspects' crimes did not just occur in Hernando County but also four other counties and have totaled several thousands of dollars in the past four years. It is very possible that they were not acting alone.



One of the arresting officers, Detective Cha Gray, explained how the initial investigation started.

“An employee at Bed, Bath and Beyond noticed that the same couple of people were making repeated returns of merchandise to the store. They did their own search and found that since 2013 there has been over $26,000 of fraud involved with this couple,” Gray stated.

This is the first time that such a sophisticated operation has been discovered in Hernando County.

Detective Christopher Vascellaro commented, “It's impressive to see a set-up like this. We deal with credit card fraud every day, but to recover skimmers that collect some of the credit card information and equipment to manufacture credit cards – it's unique to find both. Based on my experience, oftentimes there's not just [a couple of people involved]. It's widespread.”



What makes this crime so hard to uncover is that the suspects were not just stealing credit cards and using them.

Sheriff Neinhuis elaborated, “They were stealing the credit card information and then putting their names on the cards, so they could go in and produce ID that matched the name on the card. They were able to steal tens of thousands of dollars just from Bed, Bath and Beyond. We have some indication that there are other retailers that may be involved.”

The seriousness of these crimes can not be over-stated. They occur all over the United States and cost businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars. These costs are passed on to the consumers in terms of higher prices and higher credit card fees.

In order to prosecute this case, uncover other crimes and find more potential suspects, the HCSO will be working with other jurisdictions and the Secret Service.

Sheriff Neinhuis concluded by offering suggestions on how to avoid being a victim of credit card fraud.

First of all, find a credit card company that will alert you of any suspicious purchases - those that are over a certain dollar amount or those made outside the area you live in. Make sure that when you get gas that you go to a pump that is close to the store within sight of the cashier. Those pumps are less likely to have been tampered with. The chips embedded in credit cards are helping to stop fraud. Also, many credit card companies are issuing their newer cards with the numbers on the back and not embossed, as the old ones have been.

Apparently, the suspects had expensive tastes. A $600 pair of ladies shoes and two Mercedes Benz vehicles were found at the suspects' residence.

The couple have been charged with the following crimes:

Jeansy Cuevas-Padron:

Possession of Skimming Device
Possession of Credit Card Making Device (3 counts)
Person in Possession of Place/Structure/Conveyance for the Trafficking/Manufacturing of a Controlled Substance
Cultivation of Marijuana
Possession of Marijuana
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Marileisys Rodriguez Serra:

Possession of Skimming Device
Possession of Credit Card Making Device (3 counts)
Person in Possession of Place/Structure/Conveyance for the Trafficking/Manufacturing of a Controlled Substance
Cultivation of Marijuana
Possession of Marijuana
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia