Smithfield Police announced today (Thursday) they have solved a multi-state crime ring where dozens, potentially hundreds of victims, have lost tens of thousands of dollars.
In February, Smithfield Police and the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office released surveillance photos of three men who had gone to the WalMart in Smithfield several times buying thousands of dollars in merchandise with stolen debit and credit card numbers.
Today, Smithfield Police Detective Ronald Johnson said two of the three suspects have been identified and warrants are pending for their arrest.
Detective Johnson said the suspects have been traveling up and down the East Coast along the I-95 corridor stealing debit and credit cards numbers from unsuspecting victims. The crimes have been reported from Maine to Florida. Investigators believe the suspects have been placing credit card skimmers on gasoline pumps. When someone uses their debit card to pay for fuel, it steals their card and PIN numbers.
The suspects would then make a fictitious debit card with the stolen numbers and make transactions at retail stores like WalMart.
Yuniel Orlando Claneslopez, 25, and Victor Meneses 27, both of Hialeah, Florida are wanted on multiple counts of identity theft, financial card fraud, and obtaining property by false pretenses. Officers are following up on leads trying to identify the third suspect. The men are wanted by authorities in multiple states including North Carolina. Theft cases have been reported locally to the Smithfield Police Department, Selma Police Department and Johnston County Sheriff’s Office.
Detective Johnson credited “good police work” for helping solve the case. “The identification of these suspects was a group effort by numerous patrol officers and detectives. It took a lot of people doing their jobs and doing them well to make these identifications.”
Detective Johnson said citizens should be alert to credit card skimmers placed on fuel pumps. Before using a credit card reader make sure the door to the card reader has not been tampered with, make sure a keyboard has not been placed on top of the original keyboard, and if any part of the reader or pump appears to be tampered with, notify the clerk at the business or call police. Johnson said suspects are now able to use wireless technology called “Blue Skimming” by using Bluetooth devices to steal your card numbers in real time while sitting in the parking lot where a skimmer has been placed on a fuel pump.
Police anticipate more victims could be scammed along the East Coast until all three men are in custody. If you have information on the whereabouts of the three suspects or information that could help investigators you are asked to contact Detective Johnson at the Smithfield Police Department at 919-989-1072. You can also leave an anonymous tip on the Smithfield Police Tip Line at 919-989-8835.