Monday, June 1, 2015
Bensalem police bust suspected international credit card fraud, ID theft ring
Posted: Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Four alleged members of an international organized crime group committing identity theft and credit card fraud across the United States are in custody after setting up shop in a Bensalem motel, police said.
They were caught after a Michigan man complained that a motel room at the Comfort Inn on the 2700 block of Lincoln Highway was rented using his credit card number without his authorization, according to Bensalem police.
The man told Michigan authorities that the $1,133.51 charge was for a standard double room reserved online for May 20 to May 29, according to a probable cause affidavit. They in turn, contacted Bensalem police.
Police went to the motel room and spoke to two people — Diana Kurlovica, 23, and Artjoms Volincevs, 21, both from Latvia, who claimed that a third man who provided the ID when the room was rented had just left, the affidavit said.
Police said neither of the suspects were in the country legally; their visas had expired. Volincevs’ passport had no stamp on it, and Kurlovica’s passport was only stamped in Canada, court records show. And both changed their stories several times about why they were in Bensalem and how they got here, said police, who eventually found out they came from Chicago in a rented vehicle.
What was inside the room led investigator Detective Stephen Clark to believe that the two men were part of an ID theft and credit card cloning ring. Four recently purchased laptop computers, four cellphones, several thumb drives and other electronics, a Barclaycard statement from a Philadelphia resident, a dozen gift cards, Green Dot preloaded credit cards and several boxes of newly purchased, high-end items such as watches and sunglasses were in the room, police said. Also some unopened boxes of pizza were found.
Clark has prior experience investigating similar rings, which often involve individuals from other countries setting up shop in a hotel room and using laptops to obtain personal information from victims. In several cases, Clark said, thieves used a victim’s credit card to rent a hotel room and order food, the affidavit shows.
After Volincevs and Kurlovica were taken into police custody, two more Latvian nationals — Saulius Savickas, 30, and Dovydas Bielskis, 31 — tried to get in the same motel room, police said. They, too, were taken into custody and no visas for them were found, police said.
After a search warrant was obtained for the hotel room and any vehicles the four used, authorities said they discovered numerous pre-paid gift cards, eight cellphones, four computers, numerous Western Union transactions with money wired to Russia and other bank statements and credit card information.
Bensalem police contacted Homeland Security and spoke with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and learned they uncovered part of the major organized crime group in Latvia that conducted ID theft and credit card fraud nationally, authorities said.
ICE agents claim the group opens fictitious businesses in the U.S. to illegally wire money back to Latvia, according to court documents. The ring would obtain Vanilla or Green Dot gift cards, load them using a victim’s credit card and then withdraw the funds from an ATM, the court records show.
All four suspects, who have no fixed addresses, are charged with four felonies: conspiracy, unauthorized use of an access device, identity theft and corrupt organizations. Each was arraigned Wednesday before District Judge Joseph Falcone and sent to Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $200,000 bail.