Inside the $400,000 Saks theft ring

Insidious details emerged earlier this week about a group of thieves that made $400,000 worth of fraudulent purchases at a Saks Fifth Avenue store.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. detailed the events during a press conference, from behind a table piled high with designer merchandise, including shoes and handbags from Valentino, Balmain, Christian Louboutin, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci and more.

Vance also announced that several thieves had been indicted, including sales associates at Saks' flagship Fifth Avenue store, where the fraudulent purchases were made between April and August, 2014. Indicted individuals were: Tamara Williams, 36, along with collaborators Kriss Rockson, 45; Jason Chance, 25; Alaia Harrison, 20, and Michael Knight-Williams, 44.

"The identity-theft ring that has been working here would not have been possible without the help of insiders at Saks," Vance said at the press conference. "This is the point we wish to convey. Time after time, we have seen that insiders at companies enable theft to occur."

The group faces a 66-count indictment with grand larceny, attempted grand larceny, scheme to defraud, identity theft, attempted identity theft, criminal possession of stolen property and unlawful possession of personal identification information.

The joint investigation between the District Attorney's Office, the Department of Homeland Security and the Secret Service found that Williams provided personal identifying information such as social security numbers and dates of birth of more than 30 Saks' credit card holders. Then, the sales associates purchased the IDs and passed them to a group of shopper impersonators. They handed them to Williams at several locations, including hair salons and gas stations in Queens, according to the indictment.

The merchandise was then resold or returned to the store for gift cards. The gift cards were also resold or used as payment for the shoppers. These fraudulent transactions occurred 91 times.

American consumers have never been at greater risk from commercial retail fraud and theft schemes like the Saks Fifth Avenue incident, according to James Hayes, special agent in charge of HSI New York. "One of the things that is most important about this case is having retail organizations contact law enforcement prior to taking action, to allow us to determine these schemes."

For more:
-See this WWD article

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