Traveling thieves accused of Southern Idaho credit card fraud

jsowell@idahostatesman.comJune 10, 2014 

Three men from Detroit that federal prosecutors describe as "human parasites" allegedly used stolen credit card numbers to fraudulently purchase tens of thousands of dollars worth of gift cards from stores across Southern Idaho.

Myron Glenn Pardon Jr., 26, and Brandt Wilson Stewart, 29, flew to Salt Lake City and drove to Idaho in rental cars in December 2013, then again in February. They were joined in the February crime spree, prosecutors said, by a third member of the group, Matthew Lane.

"The counterfeit-altered credit cards were used to defraud by using them to purchase general use gift cards. This process used by Myron Pardon was a way of laundering the counterfeit-altered credit cards into a form of currency that would be difficult, if not impossible, to trace," Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Haws wrote in a document filed in federal court in Boise.

At least 15 stores were victimized, including a North Face store in Boise; Home Depot stores in Boise, Meridian, Nampa and Twin Falls; Fred Meyer stores in Boise, Garden City and Nampa; and Rite Aid stores in Boise.

The defendants allegedly would enter a store with a credit card embossed with the account number from a legitimate card owner but listing a false name, and use it to buy gift cards in denominations between $100 and $500, according to court records. The amount spent during a given transaction generally ranged from about $400 to more than $2,000.

Pardon, an unemployed golf caddie, is accused, for example, of using stolen credit card information to buy five $500 MasterCard gift cards from the Franklin Road Fred Meyer on Feb 3. Four hours earlier, another $2,000 worth of gift cards had been purchased at the same store. In many instances, the same store was victimized more than once.

"Pardon’s scheme — to stand at the cashiers’ counters, offering up counterfeited credit cards with information stolen from unsuspecting victims — is nothing short of practiced and brazen," Haws wrote.

The gift cards obtained by the three men were later used to buy merchandise or sold for cash.

The three men allegedly obtained more than $46,000 in gift cards and merchandise in Idaho. They tried to obtain another $20,000 in fraudulent transactions but those failed. Authorities did not provide details on the thwarted transactions.

The money stolen in Idaho is only a fraction of what they're accused of stealing in Michigan. The Kroger Co., the parent of Fred Meyer, identified $441,000 in losses attributed to Pardon, Stewart, Lane and other unindicted co-conspirators at its Michigan stores, according to court records.

An examination of Pardon's cell phone determined that he had "recently" traveled to Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Florida, Pennsylvania and New York before his arrest. Court documents did not indicate whether he's also a suspect in crimes committed in those states.

On Feb. 1, the three men were detained by Salt Lake City police after allegedly using a counterfeit credit card to buy gift cards at a Salt Lake Shopko store. They were released without charges being filed.

The next day, Pardon and Stewart drove to Boise, followed a day later by Lane. After hitting up stores in the Treasure Valley, Lane returned to Salt Lake City on Feb. 5 and caught a flight back to Detroit, according to court documents.

Meanwhile, Pardon and Stewart stopped at several retailers in Eastern Idaho and fraudulently bought more gift cards. Employees at a Pocatello Home Depot took a photo of Stewart's rental car and its license plate number and forwarded the information to police at Salt Lake City International Airport. The two men were later spotted at the airport, taken into custody and charged with theft by false pretenses for the Feb. 1 Shopko incident.

Pardon pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to a year of probation, before being brought to Idaho on March 20 to answer to charges filed against him here.

In Idaho, all three men are charged with fraud using access devices and wire fraud. Pardon is also charged with aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to launder money. Stewart is also charged with aggravated identity theft and access device fraud. Lane also faces a charge of conspiracy to launder money.

All three men have pleaded not guilty to the Idaho charges.

Trial was scheduled to begin June 23 for Pardon, Stewart and Lane. However, Thomas Dominick, an attorney representing Lane, filed a motion Monday asking for the trial for his client to be delayed until December.

Prosecutors have supplied defense attorneys with 1,200 pages of discovery documents and several audio CDs. Additional time is needed to review those documents and to prepare for trial, Dominick said.

Chief District Judge B. Lynn Winmill has not yet ruled on the motion.

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