The group, loaded up with Australian credit cards, embarked on shopping trips along Interstate 5 – the main US west coast freeway stretching between the Mexican and Canadian borders.
They stopped at shopping malls, Costco stores and other businesses and freely bought designer clothes, sunglasses, electronics and other goods.
They were not Aussie tourists snapping up bargains.
It was a 10-member gang of American fraudsters based out of an Oregon flophouse who fleeced businesses of more than $US500,000 ($A765,000) in goods with more than 1100 fraudulent credit and debit cards.
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia was named “the primary bank victim” with more than $US200,000 in transactions, both successful and unsuccessful, using nearly 100 CBA card numbers.
The gang usually sold the goods online or traded them for heroin and methamphetamine.
“To create the counterfeit or fraudulent credit and debit cards, defendants embossed stolen credit cards and other identifying information on gift cards that they either purchased or stole from local stores,” Special Assistant US Attorney, Rachel Sowray, told the US District Court.
“The majority of stolen credit card information belonged to customers of banks in Canada and Australia.”
“Defendants believed using such information would help them evade detection,” Sowray said.
Gary Peck, a 41-year-old from Clark County, Washington, was the final member of the gang sentenced to federal prison.
He received a three-year term in a Oregon court last week.
The scheme’s ringleader, Jonathan Dominic Coons, 41, of Vancouver, Washington, was sentenced last year to six years.
Court documents include text messages between the gang as they casually discussed using the fake cards.
In one conversation Dawn Szabo, 42, sentenced to four years’ prison, asked Peck: “Morning babe … Is there anything you want me to get for you?”
Peck replied: “Anything! You know what I like! Xbox? Sunglasses!”
The gang’s downfall came when a detective stopped two gang members, Kevin Leighty, 36, and Kimberly Patterson, 33, for speeding.
The detective noticed Patterson attempting to hide a price tag hanging off a North Face jacket she was wearing and suspected it might be stolen.
A search found suspect gift, debit and credit cards.
“A total of 33 fraudulently created bank cards were located, both on Leighty’s person and inside the vehicle, including 21 bank cards that were embossed with card numbers belonging to CBA,” said an affidavit written by Homeland Security Investigations special agent Lindsay Wills.
Leighty is serving 30 months’ prison and Patterson two years.
– AAPJump to next article