MOUNT ZION — Police in Mount Zion said Wednesday they arrested and disrupted part of a highly sophisticated theft ring that looted more than $11,000 from customer accounts using doctored Visa gift cards at ATMs.
Mount Zion Police Chief Adam Skundberg said the people involved — a 20 year-old male, a 17-year-old male and two 16-year-old girls — were part of a much larger criminal enterprise. He said his department was consulting with the U.S.. Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies, and the investigation continues.
“We still have a long way to go,” Skundberg said. “We’re still looking into this whole thing, and we’ve only got a small piece of this, I believe.”
The adult male and the juveniles are not U.S. citizens, and Skundberg said he believes their nationality is Romanian. The juveniles have been released to the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, while the adult was booked on preliminary charges of identity theft over $10,000 and obstruction of justice.
He was also charged with possession of a fraudulent ID card, use of a counterfeit credit/debit card and use of an account number or code with intent to defraud. Preliminary charges are subject to review by the Macon County State’s Attorney’s Office.
A sworn affidavit from Mount Zion police Lt. Michael Foster said police traced the suspects using information from video surveillance images after the Scott State Bank branch, 1120 Illinois 121 in Mount Zion, lost $11,000 in multiple withdrawals over the weekend.
DECATUR — Police said two burglars hit a Decatur store three times in the same night and left a theft and damage bill totaling almost $6,000.
Police saw a wanted vehicle leaving a hotel on Tuesday and pulled it over, arresting all the suspects at once.
“Upon being transported to the Mount Zion Police Department, one of the juvenile suspects attempted to dispose of two false identification cards and several assorted gift cards by flushing them down the toilet,” Foster said in the affidavit.
Police recovered the cards and found each had a customer personal identification number. The adult male is quoted as saying he obtained the cards from a man in Chicago. The arrested man said he stole money with the cards and was paid by the man in Chicago.
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“He said he removed between $4,000 and $5,000 in the last two days at ATMs,” Foster said. “He said he received between $600 and $700 from the (Chicago) man in return.” The 17-year-old is quoted as telling police he had taken up to $6,000 from ATMs and had been paid $200.
Skundberg said receipts the suspects had with them “showed they had been travelling quite a bit” and may be responsible for many more crimes.
A check with the Macon County Jail website showed the adult male was free after posting $25,000 bond. Given his background, the man would appear to pose a flight risk, but Macon County State’s Attorney Jay Scott said the bond was set high for the type of offense.
“The purpose of bond is not to keep people locked up, it’s to ensure they will come to court,” he said. The man is due to be arraigned Sept. 21.