Florida

Florida men scammed Target out of $6,100, cops say. Play-Doh was their secret weapon.

Two Florida men (including Jose Rivera, Jr., 36, pictured here) bought 69 hard drives, then replaced the hardware with Play-Doh and returned them to 16 Targets in Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia County — making $6,159, police said.
Two Florida men (including Jose Rivera, Jr., 36, pictured here) bought 69 hard drives, then replaced the hardware with Play-Doh and returned them to 16 Targets in Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia County — making $6,159, police said. Polk County Sheriff's Office

This definitely isn’t what Play-Doh’s creators had in mind.

Two Florida men bought 69 external hard drives from 16 Target stores across the state earlier this year, and then returned each of the hard drives with a receipt — getting back some $6,159, according to a Polk County Sheriff’s Office news release on Thursday.

But there was a big problem with their returns: When Target workers peered inside the hard drives, they found that the hardware was missing. In its place, the men had left Play-Doh — cleverly proportioning the modeling clay so the now-worthless hard drives would weigh roughly the same as hard drives with hardware inside, the sheriff’s office said.

Polk County deputies began investigating, and then worked with the state’s attorney general to get arrest warrants for the two men suspected of hatching the fraudulent returns scheme in January, the sheriff’s office announced this week. Each faces a charge of creating an organized scheme to defraud, as well as a charge of conspiracy to commit an organized scheme to defraud.

Jose Rivera, Jr., 36, of Winter Park, is suspected of purchasing the 69 hard drives from Target stores in Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia Counties, deputies said. His accomplice, Rainer Bentulan, 32, of Orlando, is the one who returned the electronics with the receipts, according to the sheriff’s office.

Rivera and Bentulan.jpg
Jose Rivera, Jr., 36, at left, and Rainer Bentulan, 32, at right. Polk County Sheriff's Office

“This is certainly a creative twist on a fraudulent return, but you can be sure that when we arrest these suspects, the handcuffs we use won’t be made out of Play-Doh,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement. “They’ll be metal, and they’ll both be taking a ride to jail.”

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Hard drives filled with Play-Doh. Polk County Sheriff's Office

And on Friday, Rivera did get his ride to jail: He was arrested in Orange County on the Polk warrant, according to a Polk County Sheriff’s Office Facebook post. He’ll be held in Orange County until he can be moved to Polk County to face the charges, deputies said.

Bentulan still hasn’t been arrested, authorities said.

Rivera has previously been arrested for burglary, marijuana possession, dealing in stolen property and grand and petit theft, the sheriff’s office said.

Bentulan has a similarly checkered criminal record, with arrests for cocaine trafficking, resisting arrest, burglary, grand theft of a motor vehicle, petit theft, destruction of evidence and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, the sheriff’s office said. From 2007 to 2008, Bentulan served a sentence in state prison.

Bentulan is described as 5-feet-10-inches and about 190 pounds with many distinctive tattoos on his arms, chest, legs, stomach and the back of his neck, deputies said.

Tips on Bentulan’s whereabouts can be called in to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 863-298-6200, or submitted anonymously to Heartland Crime Stoppers by phone at 1-800-226 TIPS (8477) or online at www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com.

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