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Macedonia — Police are attempting to identify the victims of an identity theft ring suspected of making more than $30,000 worth of purchases throughout the area with credit cards loaded with stolen account information.
Police Lt. Vince Yakopovich said the Macedonia Police Department arrested four men Dec. 9 just as they were about to leave town.
“We got them just as they were hitting Route 82 — another 10 seconds and they would have been gone,” Yakopovich said.
New York City residents Ming Chun Shi, 33, and Dong Houdong, 26, Cranberry Township, Pa. resident Wen Fei Shi, 33, and Brooklyn, N.Y. resident Yu Liu, 35, were arrested just after leaving the Office Max in Macedonia Commons.
Yakopovich said the men were due to be charged Dec. 11 with felony counts of identity theft, forgery, theft by deception, misuse of a credit card and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. They were scheduled to be arraigned in Stow Municipal Court Dec. 12. They were in the Macedonia City Jail at press time Dec. 11.
Police say they had purchased $1,250 worth of iTunes, Amex and Shell gift cards with a fraudulent credit card that had stolen account information loaded onto the card’s magnetic strip.
According to police, the men were found with 35 fraudulent credit cards and 42 gift cards worth a total of $23,350 they had purchased with the following brand names: iTunes, Home Depot, Amazon, MC, Amex, Macy’s, Shell and Apple.
He said detectives believe the men also shipped $12,000 worth of gift cards to New York the previous day.
Yakopovich said most of the men’s purchases had been made in the greater Akron area on Nov. 29, and Dec. 8 and 9, although the men’s GPS device showed they had recently traveled to Youngstown, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Florida. Also, police recovered a Texas license plate concealed in the men’s vehicle.
Police said the men’s GPS device and found they had visited Lowes and Home Depot stores in Akron, Bainbridge, Brunswick, Chagrin Falls, Copley, Cuyahoga Falls, Kent, Northfield Center, Rocky River, Streetsboro, and Wadsworth. The men had also visited a GameStop in Cleveland and an Office Max store in Wadsworth, where a Montville Township police lieutenant found his account information had been used via a fraud alert, Yakopovich said.
The lieutenant contacted the store, which then alerted other Office Max stores Dec. 8 that four Asian men were possibly using stolen credit card information.
Macedonia police were notified the four were in the Macedonia Office Max on Dec. 9 as store staff attempted to delay the men.
Yakopovich said Macedonia police are working with other police departments in Ohio and New York to attempt to identify victims and find more information about the operation.
Yakopovich said it is unclear where the men obtained the credit card information, but said about 12 victims identified thus far include the Montville police lieutenant, a Hudson resident and residents of eastern Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Macedonia police are asking area residents to check their credit and debit accounts for unauthorized purchases on Nov. 29 and Dec. 8 and 9 and to contact the department’s detective bureau at 330-468-1234.
Eric Marotta: 330-541-9433