According to the Charlotte Observer, the man’s scam — which involved Walmarts in at least three states — worked a little like this: The suspect would pay cash for $100 American Express gift cards. The store would give him receipts for his purchases. He would then use the transaction codes on those receipts to forge bogus receipts that had the same dollar amount, but different descriptions of what had been purchased. That new description would match whatever counterfeit items he and his scammy pals had gotten their hands on recently.
The Observer has an example from 2010 of scams he pulled on two Charlotte Walmarts. First, he purchased $700 worth of gift cards at one store. Then two weeks later, he used the bogus receipts to return 15 allegedly counterfeit DVDs. He got back $672.40 of the $700 he’d spent on the gift cards, plus he still had those cards to do with as he pleased. His only cost was whatever he paid to obtain the counterfeit DVDs.
Lather, rinse, repeat this scam enough times and you’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraud. Specifically, around $115,000 in fraudulently returned software, $95,000 in DVDs, and $46,000 in fishing rods.
Investigators found a storage locker belonging to the suspect, containing more than 1,000 counterfeit DVDs, around 1,000 counterfeit copies of Microsoft software, 2,000 gift cards, more than 70 fake drivers licenses from Ohio and South Carolina, and receipt printers.
The man now faces federal charges of wire fraud, trafficking in counterfeit goods and conspiracy to traffic. He could be staring at up to 40 years in prison and $3 million in fines.