Theft suspect may be part of gift card scam ring

Posted at 2:58 PM, Apr 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-25 20:11:10-04

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah -- Cottonwood Heights police arrested a woman Wednesday after she allegedly stole a Samsung tablet computer from a vehicle in a Home Depot parking lot.

Cottonwood Heights police said that on Wednesday, they were notified of a suspicious group selling Home Depot gift cards at a significantly discounted rate.

When officers arrived at the Home Depot located at 1300 East Park Centre Drive, they noticed a car matching the description of a suspect vehicle.

Police said Nadine Lopez, 22, was allegedly found in possession of the tablet, which had been reported stolen a few hours earlier. Police say they also found other stolen merchandise in the vehicle, plus drug paraphernalia.

Lopez was allegedly involved with a group of people who targeted retail stores and their customers in a scam to acquire drug money.

Police said the scammers would steal items from stores like Nordstrom, Target and Home Depot, then return those items in exchange for gift cards. The gift cards would then be sold online at a discounted rate in exchange for cash.

“It’s not uncommon for this activity to occur. They take merchandise from the store, then sell undervalue for drugs or what not,” said Sgt. Gary Young, Cottonwood Heights Police Dept.

Lopez has a history of convictions for theft and possession of stolen property, according to a probable cause statement.

A few others who were allegedly involved in the scam were issued misdemeanor citations, but were not arrested.

Police say purchasing gift cards from online classifieds can be a bad idea.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is," Young said.