Seasonal employees arrested in credit card scheme

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News 12 First at Five, December 7, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga. --- Two JC Penney employees were arrested Wednesday, accused of using their jobs, and fake names, to open up very real JC Penney credit card accounts.

Investigators say the employees, Saraia Maxwell and Dwayn Roland had only been employed for a month. Investigators said they opened up JC Penney credit card accounts and then bought gift cards.

"In this case, of course as soon as the accounts were open and approved, the gift cards were purchased and redeemed quickly," Investigator Anita Hopson said.

Investigators said those gift cards were later redeemed and some of the merchandise was brought back for cash. Investigators said the pair used seven different fake identities to open seven accounts, racking up over $10,000.

"Once they opened of these fictitious accounts using apparently valid social security numbers. The names, addresses, phone numbers for these bogus applicants did not exist," Investigator Hopson said.

JC Penney wouldn't talk about their hiring practices but some shops in downtown Augusta like Elduets Treasures of the World don't do background checks, but they do check references.

"We usually choose from among those we know prior to actually hiring. It gives us a personal background, knowledge. I trust that more than any record of someone," Robert Steudle said.

And he said he does his best to screen his employees.

"We also try to give them a working environment here where they've personally connected to the business," Steudle said.

Investigators said this time of year they are expecting a rise in employee theft all the way through January.

"We expect it. We know that these retailers are going to be hit with bad employees," Investigator Hopson said.

Investigators said the best thing for business to do is criminal background checks, check what your employees are doing and a supervisor should be there to sign off on any credit card account openings.

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