The arrest of two people at a border checkpoint in south Texas for alleged credit card fraud may be connected, according to authorities, to an earlier security breach affecting millions of debit and credit accounts at the retail chain Target. The arrests were the result of cooperation between local and federal law enforcement. Officials have offered ambiguous answers regarding whether they are investigating the two individuals in connection with the larger security breach. Some officials have alleged that the two people merely used account numbers obtained from whomever was responsible for the breach, while others have suggested that they might be part of a larger operation.
Hackers allegedly broke into Target’s computer systems and stole the numbers of debit and credit cards that had been used in stores between November 27 and December 15, 2013, about 40 million numbers in total. The hackers also reportedly stole email addresses and other personal information belonging to about 70 million people from Target’s system. The U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Justice are investigating the security breach. Investigators suspect that the hackers are located in eastern Europe, but finding them is expected to be difficult. The people who make use of the stolen information, however, may be easier to identify.
Police in McAllen, Texas were reportedly alerted to possible credit card fraud on January 14, 2014, when several banks contacted them regarding suspicious activity. Two individuals had spent tens of thousands of dollars on electronics at retailers in the area during the previous weekend. Police asked for the Secret Service’s help connecting account numbers used that weekend in McAllen to numbers stolen from Target. They suspected that someone had encoded stolen account numbers onto new credit cards and used them to go shopping.
By comparing the receipts for the suspicious purchases to surveillance footage at the retail locations, police were able to identify the suspects’ vehicle. The Department of Homeland Security helped them locate the vehicle and identify the two individuals, and they used this information to obtain arrest warrants. The following Sunday, January 19, agents at the border checkpoint in Mission, Texas identified the car and arrested the two occupants. They were Mexican nationals from Monterey who were allegedly carrying forged driver’s licenses and ninety-six allegedly fraudulent credit cards.
After their arrest, they reportedly told police how they created credit cards using stolen account numbers. A federal official stated that no known connection existed between these two people and any investigation of the Target breach, but the McAllen police chief told local news that he suspected they were “part of a much larger fraud conspiracy.” They have reportedly been charged in state court with fraud-related offenses. It does not appear that they have been charged with anything at the federal level. Connecting them to the larger Target breach may prove difficult, at least based on the evidence made available to the public.
For more than twenty years, board-certified criminal defense attorney Michael J. Brown has fought for the rights of west Texas defendants in criminal cases. He draws on his experience as an FBI agent and a federal prosecutor to provide clients with knowledgeable and skilled representation. To schedule a confidential consultation to see how we can help you, please contact us today online or at (432) 687-5157.
More Blog Posts:
Federal Prosecutors Charge Alleged Proprietor of Online Marketplace for Illegal Drugs, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, October 3, 2013
Facebook Boasts Aid Federal Prosecutors in Tax Fraud Case, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, August 15, 2013
Appellate Court Limits Law Enforcement’s Ability to Search Computers Seized During Border Inspections, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, April 19, 2013
Photo credit: By Aurélien Haberstich at fr.wikipedia [CC-BY-1.0], from Wikimedia Commons.