VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - Eighteen people were behind bars Monday arrested in what deputies are calling a massive scheme to resell gift cards obtained by returning stolen merchandise to stores.
The racketeering arrests were the result of a seven-month investigation into three cash-for-gift-cards stores and the individuals selling to them in Deltona and Daytona Beach.
In eight months, two of the stores bought 16,870 cards, resulting in $100,000 in profits per month, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said in a release.
The owners of the stores, father-son duo of Dale Holcombe, 52, and James Holcombe, 27, were arrested along with four employees.
Twelve people who regularly sold to the Holcombes were also arrested.
In the scheme, sellers of the cards – also called “boosters” – would go to a store, steal merchandise and then return it for a gift card loaded with store credit. They would then go to the cash-for-gift-cards businesses and sell them for half their face value, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said.
One of the most prolific customers of the Holcombes’ stores, deputies allege, was Peter LaPlaca, 48. The man sold allegedly more than 600 gift cards to the stores over the course of six months.
He was paid $86,000 for gift cards during that time, deputies said.
During the investigation into the scheme, deputies went undercover, posing as sellers and buyers. They also approached the stores in uniform to tell the owners that it was illegal to accept gift cards they knew, or suspected, to be stolen.
The owners told the deputies they would black list any sellers who tried to sell stolen cards. At that point, deputies told them of two customers, who were known to have sold stolen gift cards.
When investigators returned four months later, they found that not only had the two sellers continued to sell to the stores, they had each sold more than 100 cards.
There are warrants outstanding for five more individuals implicated in the scheme.