It was a complex counterfeit scam involving runners, identity theft and cigarettes.
The 14 people who took part in it scammed more than $13 million from one of the worlds largest retailers: Wal-Mart and Sams Club, Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials said.
The scam: gift cards bought with fake credit cards.
Police busted the ring, which used stolen identities to apply for 23,527 credit cards, which they then used to purchase 56,873 gift cards.
They used those cards at the stores to buy cigarettes and other goods to resell.
Overall, they cost the companies $13,029,011.59, according to an arrest warrant.
Twelve of the fourteen people charged appeared in bond court on Wednesday. Arrest warrants were issued for Daniel Cabello, Midiala Arango La Rosa, Alejandro Duarte, Pedro L. Duarte, Miguel A. Peraza, Jimmy Ariel Suros Corzo, Boris L. Estrada, Luis Arango La Rosa, Juan Carlos Fernandez Rodriguez, Joel Mayo Hernandez, Eduardo Cardero, Diana R. Cardero, Eleorgino Aleman Aquila and Luis Y. Cabello Perez, all of Miami-Dade. The charges range from racketeering to grand theft to organized fraud.
U.S. Secret Service agents and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the ring for about a year.
From January 2010 to April 2012, the gift cards were used by 12 small businesses to buy items from Wal-Mart, Sams Club and other stores. The businesses fronted themselves as discount dollar/convenience stores with names like Wendys Dollar and Duarte the Real Discount Inc. Goods purchased with the fake gift cards were then sold at the discount stores across Miami-Dade.
At one of these discount stores, Murphy USA in Hialeah Gardens, several Wal-Mart gift cards were found with an E marked on the back a code for Eddys, or Eddys Cardenas Faraminan, who is thought to have been buying and running fraudulent cards in 2011, FDLE officials said.
Officials found 209 Wal-Mart gift cards in the lining of his suitcase when he was flying from Manchester Boston Regional Airport to Miami International Airport. He and another man were released after officials took the cards.
Those cards, too, had the mysterious E, and several had a 6 marked on the back. When Faraminan was stopped later that year at an airport in Denver, he explained that the 6 meant $600 was loaded onto that particular card. He was indicted on May 3, along with several others who were accused of being runners.
Gift cards were bought at stores as far away as Maine and used as near as a Sams Club at 8425 NW 13th Terr. to buy items, particularly mass quantities of cigarettes. Several of the owners of the discount stores were Sams Club members.
We are grateful we were able to provide information to law enforcement which helped identify those involved in this multi-state counterfeit credit card fraud operation, said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Dianna Gee.
Bond was set at $880,000 for nine of the men. One of the men, Jimmy Ariel Suros Corzo, who worked at Alkazar Discount in Hialeah, was given a bond of $1.5 million.
One of those charged, Diana Cardero, was released on her own recognizance as part of a deal she struck with the state. Cardero, however, was forced to turn over her passport. WFOR-CBS
4 News contributed to this report.