Credit card theft ring at airport gets at least $1.7 million before feds catch up
By David Pendered
Against the backdrop of recently reported cyberattacks involving the National Security Agency, stealing mail may seem passé. But the take was more than $1.7 in a mail theft scheme federal authorities dismantled at Atlanta’s airport.
A gang of five stole credit cards that were in the custody of the U.S. Postal Service, which was delivering the cards to recipients. The thieves took the mail from baggage areas at the airport and an unidentified private mail sorting facility. Thieves used the cards to get cash advances from ATMs or purchase expensive items at electronic stores, prosecutors said.
The last of the defendants entered a guilty plea Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.
A top Secret Service officer, Kenneth Cronin, tipped his hat to the thieves in a June 6 statement announcing the indictments of the five admitted crooks. Speaking of apparent ring-leader Quentin Pickett, Cronin said:
- “Pickett and his conspirators were creative in their scheme to steal victims’ credit cards and defraud them.”
Prosecutors said Pickett, 25, was involved in almost every aspect of the crime. He interacted with the men who stole credit cards at the airport and the other location. He interacted with the men whose job was to extract value from the stolen cards.
According to a statement issued Wednesday by U.S. Attorney John Horn, the scheme lasted from December 2015 until April 2017. The last of the indictments were issued May 23.
Horn said the defendants stole credit cards that was being sent by credit companies to their clients. The mail was taken from baggage loading areas of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and from an unidentified private mail sorting facility.
The crew had two ways to extract value from the stolen cards.
One member got cash advances from ATMs. Another worked as a bank teller and executed fraudulent transactions when his partners presented cards to him at the bank, prosecutors said.
Here’s the scorecard:
- Pickett, of Jonesboro, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identify theft. He agreed to a court order that requires him to repay the amount of $1,759,301.14. Pickett is to be sentenced on Jan. 10, 2018.
- Cornelius Henderson, the thief whose job gave him access to steal cards at the airport’s baggage area, pleaded guilty wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft and agreed to repay $429,142.26. Henderson, 23, of Riverdale, is to be sentenced Jan. 9, 2018.
- The bank teller, Brandon Foster, 24, of Stockbridge, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and is to repay $14,831. He’s to be sentenced Nov. 17.
- LaSuhn Turner, who bought electronics and got cash advances, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and agreed to a restitution order of $70,483.05. He’s to be sentenced Dec. 5.
- Treveyon Herring was the last to plead guilty. Herring, 22, worked at the private mail sorting facility and agreed to repay $1,341,778.96. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and is to be sentenced Jan. 10, 2018.
In announcing Herring’s plea, Cronin reprised his statement about Pickett:
- “Herring and his conspirators were creative in their scheme to steal victims’ credit cards and defraud them.”
The cyberattack involving the NSA resulted from a contractor taking highly classified material and put it on his home computer, according to a report Thursday on wsj.com. Hackers working for the Russian government evidently stole it from the contractor’s computer after identifying the files through the contractor’s use of an antivirus software made by a Russia-based company, according to the report.