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Man follows 'hunch'; police arrest 2 for alleged credit card fraud

(Winston Armani)


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OREM — A general manager alerted police to an alleged credit card scam after two men bought several expensive guitars from different stores.

Marcus Hight said he followed a hunch, when an employee at his Best in Music store at 444 West 800 North in Orem, told him about a big sale on October 31st.

A customer had bought a limited-edition Martin guitar for $4,500 without playing it first. Hight, the general manager of the Best in Music stores in Utah County, said the customer's name sounded familiar.

"So I looked up his history and saw multiple purchases and red flags started going off cause they were all high-end, $2,800, $3,000, $4,000 guitars," Hight said. "When you're dealing with items that are multi-thousand dollar items, it's very rare for someone to simply come in and say, ‘I want that guitar' without trying it and give you a credit card."

With no proof, Hight alerted his employees and Orem Police about possible fraud. Hight said a few hours later, a worker at the store on 1006 S. State Street store in Orem called Hight about another customer.

"The MO matched — he was buying a high-end guitar for a friend, never tried them out," Hight said.

Hight told his employee to stall the customer until police officers arrived. Police arrested Robert Richardson, 24. Through questioning, police discovered Richardson was working with the other man, identified as Marc Martinez, 33. Officers arrested Martinez at the Best Western Hotel in Springville.

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Police said the men are from California and were traveling across several states making a living from the elaborate scam. Investigators said the men would call a phone number and claim they were merchants trying to verify credit card numbers.

"If they passed, they would then take that number and print it onto a gift card," said Orem Police Lt. Craig Martinez. "The magnetic strip on this card would not work so the retailers, when they use these cards, would have to manually enter the number and it would work."

Martinez said the men used this scam to purchase tens of thousands of dollars worth of property in Utah and possibly other states.

"We've run into identity theft rings out of California but nothing like this," Martinez said.

Hight said he's never seen such an elaborate scam before either. He said the week before their arrests, Richardson and Martinez separately went to his stores several times and bought seven guitars totaling nearly $21,000.

Police were able to recover four of the guitars as well as other stolen items, including welders and generators.

Richardson and Martinez were booked into the Utah County Jail. Police said Martinez had been using the name, "Juan Ramirez," who is an identity theft victim in Florida.

"It's frustrating on our part to see people take advantage of the system and especially other people's credit cards," Hight said.

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Sandra Yi

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