Hawaii credit card scam busted

Credit card scam busted

Federal and local law enforcement officials said they have broken up a sophisticated credit card fraud scheme targeting luxury retailers in Hawaii.

The alleged ring attempted to steal more than $300,000 from upscale boutiques and department stores in Waikiki and Ala Moana Center.

"Now, let me make it clear that these visitors, these five visitors were not tourists. They were criminals. They came here to commit crimes," said Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro.

A recent grand jury indictment alleges that five suspects traveled from Brooklyn, New York to Hawaii in April 2012 and used counterfeit credit cards to rack up purchase at Chanel, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.

"They travel very quickly. They came in for a very finite amount -- period. They were able to hit stores then depart very quickly," said Timothy Hollern, assistant special agent in charge with the U.S. Secret Service.

U.S Marshals arrested 22-year-old Falysha Pierre-Lys, 24-year-old Sean Khani and Tamel Vaughn, also 24, in New York on theft and identity theft charges. Nineteen-year-old Isatta Bassie and 24-year-old Shawnese Adams were arrested in December on the island of Aruba.

Police said that similar rings have operated in Hawaii in recent years.

"This is not the first group we have identified nor are they the first people that we have arrested," said Honolulu Police Lt. John McCarthy.

Hollern said the group used the credit cards to purchase high-end end watches, purses, clothing items and sold them for cash.

Police said the group obtained the credit card numbers stolen from Mainland consumers and had those numbers printed on blank credit cards.

The group likely obtained the stolen card numbers from organized crime groups in Eastern Europe.

Prosecutors said the indictment was made possible by a year-old law that allows state judges to issue search warrants in other states. Police said they were able to seize out-of-state email and social media accounts and cell phone records.

"We obtained email from one account that had a list of credit card numbers and instructions on how to create counterfeit credit cards," said Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter.

"We issued a search warrant to twitter and we were able to obtain pictures of at least one of the defendants on the balcony of the Trump Hotel wearing some of the clothes and a purse and shoes that had been fraudulently obtained."

Police say the suspects were able to avoid arrest for a long period because they kept a low profile, often changing cell phones and email accounts.

The last two suspects -- Khani and Vaughn -- were captured this morning in New York by U.S. Marshals. Davan Gabbard -- U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard's younger sister -- was one of the federal marshals that made the arrest.

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