LAKELAND, Fla. (FOX 13) - Seven people have been charged in a statewide racketeering and money laundering investigation, the Polk County Sheriff's Office said.
Sheriff Grady Judd said four of the seven suspects were arrested in Polk County; three other suspects have warrants out for their arrests in Miami-Dade.
The suspects all have been working together since January to use stolen credit cards from Chase Bank customers to make fraudulent purchases and returns at Gap Inc. stores in 15 different Florida counties, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office Identity Theft Strike Force Unit.
The investigation began in March when retail crime managers for Gap stores noticed fraudulent transactions at multiple Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and Athleta stores throughout Florida. The company provided surveillance video to the Polk County Sheriff's Office, who identified the suspects.
According to detectives, the suspects bought merchandise with stolen or fraudulent Chase credit cards, then returned the items to different stores and received refunds on their own personal credit cards.
In all, the seven people are accused of 568 fraudulent transactions at 67 different stores, spanning 15 Florida counties. Officials said there were 151 credit card victims from 15 different states. In total, the suspects stole $87,500, with about $63,000 in losses for Gap and $24,000 in losses for Chase.
Judd said the four suspects in Polk County are all receiving federal assistance.
"You're going to work, paying your taxes, so that we can help those that are less fortunate. And these organized criminal thieves are getting federal assistance to steal stuff," Judd said. "We pay those taxes to help people that need help. We don't pay those taxes for people to take advantage."
Investigators identified the four Polk County suspects as 29-year-old Hakeem Leonard Abraham, 22-year-old Otis Bernard "Bee" Williams, 22-year-old Devonna O'Shea Moor, and 29-year-old Britney Peacock.
Judd said Abraham was the suspected ringleader of the group, and moved to Polk County from Miami about a year ago with Peacock, his girlfriend.
Williams is the owner of Designer Kuts Barber Shop in Lake Wales, Judd said. Moore is his live-in girlfriend.
Deputies arrested Abraham, Williams and Moore on Wednesday, charging the three with multiple felonies, including racketeering, money laundering, grand theft, dealing in stolen property and cheating or gross fraud.
Peacock has been charged with criminal conspiracy to violate the Racketeering Act.
The three suspects in Miami-Dade County, who all have warrants out for their arrest in Polk, have been identified as 31-year-old JD Jones, Jr., 29-year-old Calvin Andrea Pinckney, Jr., and 26-year-old Sha'quella Jewel Sykes.