Three people were arrested early Saturday for allegedly using cloned credit cards to buy large amounts cigarettes.
Washington police arrested Michael Desilva, 36, New Jersey; Shenita Howard, 23, Pennsylvania; and Trenaya Blackburn, 25, Ohio; following an investigation. Police have applied for warrants seeking charges for fraudulent use of a credit device, a felony.
Washington Detective Sgt. Steve Sitzes said the trio were arrested after an incident at 12:45 a.m. Feb. 11. Police were called to the Fas-Trip at Washington Crossing.
Sitzes said a manager reported suspicious behavior from customers. Police were told three customers were attempting to buy a “huge” amount of cigarettes from the store.
Sitzes said because Missouri has the lowest cigarette sales tax in the country, local convenience stores occasionally see customers buying cigarettes in bulk. Buying in bulk isn’t illegal, but the customers often transport the cigarettes to other states and sell them illegally.
In prior cases, Sitzes said the purchasers hit multiple gas stations in town. An officer went to another Fas-Trip, this one by JCPenney, and met up with the suspects.
The officer spotted a van with Ohio plates and contacted the passengers. The trio were questioned about their purchases and asked to provide receipts and their credit cards.
Sitzes said the suspects allegedly told officers they had thrown the cards away, but it was discovered that was untrue. Officers were eventually able to determine that the credit cards were likely stolen.
The last four digits on the receipt did not match the last four digits on the credit card provided to police, Sitzes said.
Police believed the credit cards were “cloned.” Sitzes said the names on the front of the cards matched the three suspects, but the magnetic strip on the back likely belonged to a different card.
The U.S. Secret Service was looped in to investigate the credit cards. Sitzes said during the course of the investigation, police found dozens of possibly fraudulent credit cards connected to the suspects.
The trio had purchased $6,660 worth of items when apprehended, Sitzes said, with the bulk of the purchases being cigarettes. Around $1,800 was spent on Newport brand cigarettes alone, he said.
As of Monday morning, all three were being held in the Franklin County Detention Center on a $100,000 cash-only bond.
More charges could be coming, Sitzes said. Police have been in contact with other municipalities that may have been the scene of other purchases from the group.
Sitzes said police discovered receipts from Union, Cape Girardeau and Mexico, Mo., during the investigation.