SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Four people were arrested and three others are wanted via warrant by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for stealing credit card information throughout the state and around the nation.
The four people arrested on Wednesday (29-year-old Hakeem Abraham, 22-year-old Otis “Bee” Williams IV, 22-year-old Devonna Moore, and 29-year-old Britney Peacock) have been charged with felony counts of racketeering, criminal conspiracy to violate racketeering act, money laundering, dealing in stolen property, cheating or gross fraud and grand theft.
The other three people (31-year-old JD Jones Jr., 29-year-old Calvin Pinckney Jr., and 26-year-old Sha’quella Sykes) who were charged via warrant are currently living in Miami. Jones has been charged on six felony counts and Pinckney have been charged on three felony counts. All seven people also all have multiple prior criminal charges.
According to deputies, they have all been working together since January of this year, but the investigation into this case didn’t begin until March. Deputies say they were contacted by the Southeast and the North Florida Organized Retail Crime Managers for Gap, Inc about fraudulent transactions that had occurred.
“Since the beginning of the year, these felons worked together to steal victims’ credit card information and used those credit cards to steal from retail stores,” Sheriff Grady Judd said. "The four suspects in Polk are also receiving government assistance. We thank the professionals at Gap, Inc. for working with us to fight this kind of crime and the Statewide Prosecutor’s Office for their strong support. Racketeering and money laundering are very serious felonies. We will hold these criminals accountable.”
Detectives were provided with and reviewed the video surveillance and electronic journals from Gap, Old Navy, Athleta, and Banana Republic stores in 15 different Florida counties, including Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Six of the suspects were identified on the footage as they were buying merchandise at the stores with stolen and/or fraudulent Chase Bank credit cards, then returning the merchandise to different Gap, Inc. stores and receiving refunds on their own personal credit cards.
There were a total of 67 stores that were impacted by this and 568 total fraudulent transactions. The total confirmed loss of money is $87,500 with $24,070 coming from Chase Bank and $63,430 coming from Gap Inc. in which $4,108 of the loss occurred at a Lakeland Old Navy store where 15 of the fraudulent transactions also took place.
The stores that were hit were in the counties of Alachua, Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Leon, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Polk, Sarasota, and Seminole.
There were also 151 Chase Bank victims who were effected by these fraudulent acts and live in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
The statewide prosecutor, Attorney General Ashley Moody, will be prosecuting the suspects and she spoke with the media about her thoughts on the case. “Retail theft hurts all consumers, as businesses often must build these losses into their budgets and pass costs on to consumers," Moody said. "Thanks to the great work of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and my statewide prosecutors, this organized retail crime ring is dismantled and the suspects will face justice. Criminals must know that fraud of any kind will not to be tolerated in our state, and I will continue to work with Florida’s great law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute criminals.”
No court dates have been issued as of yet.