A tip from a worker at a Columbus auto parts shop helped local authorities catch a ring of thieves using stolen credit card accounts to buy thousands of dollars in high-end car parts, a police sergeant said Wednesday.
It started Aug. 12, when an employee at Advance Auto Parts, 3593 Victory Drive, saw men gathered around a red car outside the shop, and noticed the car’s trunk was full of new gear from the auto parts chain.
The red Dodge Challenger showed up later at an Advance Auto Parts store in Phenix City, where police detained three suspects, one of them identified as Jarrod Williams, 24, of Riverdale, Ga., investigators said.
Authorities spoke with an Advance Auto Parts district manager who told them the suspects had made numerous purchases with cards sourced to credit accounts. Store surveillance showed them buying expensive gear shifts and electronics such as car stereos, police said.
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Investigators said they discovered the thieves were using pilfered credit-card account information to purchase gift cards in their own names, then using the gift cards to buy parts.
Arrested Aug. 12 in Phenix City were Williams, Kalil Tequan Henry and Rashad Albero, police said. Williams later was released from the Russell County jail and arrested Monday in Columbus, where he was booked into the Muscogee County Jail.
During his preliminary hearing Wednesday in Columbus Recorder’s Court, he faced nine counts of credit card fraud, eight counts of credit card theft and seven counts of identification fraud.
Testifying before Judge Michael Cielinski was Sgt. D. Grant, who said Williams was caught on store video buying parts, acting as a lookout, or picking out parts for an accomplice to purchase. The loss to the Columbus store was estimated at $3,700, with each gear shift worth $200 to $300, Grant said.
The cards were bought on accounts from institutions such as Community & Southern Bank, Lanco Federal Credit Union, Heritage Oaks Bank and Bank of the Ozarks, the sergeant said.
Each suspect is from the Atlanta area, he said. A fourth still is being sought.
Williams told the judge he bought the gift cards from someone else, and didn’t think they were illegal because his name was on them.
Cielinski found probable cause to send the case to Muscogee Superior Court.