Sheriff: Nationwide theft ring busted in Polk Co.

- A group of suspected thieves allegedly involved in a nationwide theft ring, originating in Tampa, are now behind bars.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office says the 4-member theft ring bought people's identities off the dark web, created cards in their names, and then made fraudulent purchases at three Bay Area JCPenney stores.

They then returned the merchandise for gift cards totaling more than $30,000.

The sheriff's office started investigating after receiving a call from JCPenney, which reported dozens of customers complaining, saying purchases were made in their name without their knowledge.

Investigators linked the group to the stolen identities of at least 60 people, including three people in Florida.

Deputies say the group made purchases at JCPenney stores in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, and Polk counties and then sold the gift cards for cash. The group's first purchases date back to October 2017.

Despite only four warrants being issued, deputies believe more people are involved.

"This is like a profession for some of these thieves," Polk County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Brian Bruchey said. "And what they will do is gather all of this stolen information and will actually pay people to give them stolen information."

The sheriff's office has already arrested 26-year-old Aramis Shantel Nelson, 30-year-old Charles Gibson, and Da Jah Charisse Scott, but are still looking for 26-year-old Shykiah Rosetta Samoya Byrd. Byrd previously was convicted of felony racketeering and fraud charges.

If you have any information on her whereabouts, you're asked to call the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

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