POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County Sheriff's Office detectives have busted a major statewide-organized cellphone theft conspiracy against Walmart and Sam's Club stores, and a number of victims.
The detectives say the group targeted the following locations in Polk County:
- Walmart located at 36205 Hwy 27 (Haines City)
- Walmart located at 355 Cypress Gardens Blvd. (Winter Haven)
- Sam's Club located at 4600 Hwy 98 N (Lakeland)
According to charging documents, between April 21 and March 28, 2017, four suspects worked together in a plot to defraud the retailers.
The suspects created official-looking ID's-driver's licenses and state identification cards comprised of information from the 63 identity theft victims — their name, address, date of birth, and Social Security numbers.
These suspects intentionally provided Walmart and/or Sam's club with a fake identification in order to purchase a cellular phone and then later sold the phones. They would also call and cancel the cell phone contract so that the service was no longer linked to the phone, making the phone easier to sell. The suspects also signed up for Sam's club memberships using the fake IDs.
Both retailers are authorized dealers of AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint products and stock a variety of cell phones. If customers are interested in purchasing a cell phone with these companies, they [customers] must provide a driver's license or an identification card. After an ID is provided, Walmart and/or Sam's Club conducts a credit check. A credit check will determine a deposit amount (if any) is needed to purchase the phone, which the suspects paid for. The suspects would also pay taxes, if any.
"I feel really violated," Jason Stonerock told News Channel 8.
"I got a letter in the mail to where I live saying that I opened a Verizon account. I knew I didn't, so I called my wife. She didn't. Then I figured my ex-wife had done it. But it wasn't her. It was somebody that knew how to scam," Stonerock said.
One bill quickly turned into several. The group is suspected of opening ten phone lines in Stonerock's name, taking his identity and his time.
Stonerock has spent months trying to clean up the mess. "I was stuck for five or six months I was stuck where I couldn't get my credit back up," he said.
Stonerock is not alone.
Detectives say the suspects are responsible for stealing the identities of 63 victims from 13 different states.
Investigators say the group has stolen and tried to steal a total of $125,948.14 of merchandise (cell phones) and promotional gift cards from the retailers. Of that amount, $64,263.74 was stolen. The group tried to steal an additional $59,834.40, but were unsuccessful— $1,850.00 was taken as promotional gift cards, according to investigators.
Eight of the thefts for which they have been charged occurred in Polk County; Haines City Walmart (3 incidents), Winter Haven Walmart (four incidents), and North Lakeland Sam's club (once).
Listed below are thefts by each suspect:
Marvin Fleurant was involved in 77 incidents and the theft of 149 cellular phones. Detectives have identified Fleurant as the leader of this scheme and he was able to fraudulently obtain the victims' information. He opened seven different Sam's Club Membership cards, each under a different false name. He was previously arrested by the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office on March 28, 2017, and posted a $30,000 bond.
Edouard Fleurant was involved in 12 incidents and the theft of 28 cellular phones. He was used as a "look out" person and often was the driver.
Karla Hernandez was involved in eleven incidents and the theft of 25 cellular phones. She was previously arrested by Okaloosa County on March 28, 2017, and posted two $500.00 bonds.
Carlos Milan was involved in six incidents and the theft of 22 cellular phones.
"These criminals traveled all over Florida to steal from Walmart and Sam's stores. Here is our promise: if somebody steals from stores in Polk County, and we catch them, they are going to jail. These identity theft victims will have lingering negative effects on their credit scores and it will take months to clear up their accounts. Each of these suspects need to spend time in prison—they have earned their trip." --Grady Judd, Sheriff
These suspects have a combined total of 5 felony and 10 misdemeanor previous charges:Edouard Fleurant, of 4535 Caladium Court in Kissimmee:
- 06/07/2017 - Osceola County SO - Out of County Warrant
- 07/30/2014 - Kissimmee PD - DUI, refuse to submit to DUI test
- 04/18/2011 - Orlando PD - Resist LEO, municipal ordinance violation
- 01/12/2011 - Orange County SO - Fleeing to elude and resisting arrest
- 03/28/2017 - Okaloosa County SO - Fraudulent possession of display blank forged stolen DL/ID, Grand Theft, Fraudulent impersonation/ use of an ID of another person w/o consent
- 09/11/2013 - Charlotte County SO - fraudulent impersonation and criminal attempt use of personal identification without consent
- 05/26/2013 - Orange County SO - domestic battery/violence
- 06/07/2017 - Osceola County SO - Out of County Warrant
- 12/08/2013 - Orange County SO - domestic violence/battery
- 04/18/2011 - Orlando PD - Municipal Ordinance Violation
- 03/28/2017 - Okaloosa County SO - Grand Theft, Fraudulent impersonation/ use of an ID of another person w/o consent
PCSO detectives are asking victims who purchased a cell phone from any of these suspects to please contact Detective Thomas at 863-298-6200 or to remain anonymous please call 1-800-226-TIPS or log onto www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com.ANONYMITY IS GUARANTEED! iPhone and Droid users can download a free tip submit app to anonymously report crime. To install these free apps, please visit www.tipsoft.com.
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