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For the week of April 26 through May 2, 2000

Two charged with credit card theft

May be part of multi-state ring

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum police have arrested two southern Idaho residents on three felony counts each for allegedly stealing credit card information from a Sun Valley skier, and using the data to make about $3,700 in charges.

Police say the alleged theft may make up only a small part of a more wide-ranging credit-card theft scheme.

According to Ketchum police Lt. Mike McNeil, his department received a complaint from New York City resident Adam Clemens on April 13, reporting that his credit information was apparently copied by someone while he left his credit cards in a condominium off Warm Springs Road he rented between March 25 and April 1.

McNeil said that on April 18, police arrested Patricia Valdez, 30, a Gooding resident and housekeeper at the condominium, and Brock L. Gillis, 28, a resident of Shoshone. He said both were arrested at their homes.

McNeil said Valdez allegedly let Gillis into the condo as part of a plan to obtain Clemens’ credit information.

He said police believe the two are part of a ring operating out of Portland, Ore., and that at least two other people are involved. He said police have an arrest warrant for one of them.

"It could stretch to other areas as well," McNeil said.

McNeil said Gillis and two suspects from Oregon are alleged to have used two of Clemens’ credit card numbers to rent cars and motel rooms in Twin Falls.

According to McNeil, Clemens first became aware of irregularities when his bank called about suspicious charges made in Twin Falls. McNeil said Clemens canceled his credit cards and began using a debit card. However, McNeil said, he found that account to have been frozen about a week later due to suspicious charges made on it as well.

McNeil said Gillis and the two Oregon suspects also allegedly used Clemens’ credit card information to transfer $80,000 out of his savings account and into his checking account. He said they also allegedly tried to use the information to send a $2,500 Western Union wire transfer.

McNeil said Gillis and Valdez are charged with fraudulent use of a credit card, criminal possession of account information and fraudulently obtaining goods and services, all felonies.

The U.S. Secret Service, which investigates counterfeiting and credit card crimes, is also involved in the case.

Tim Wood, a Secret Service agent in Idaho, said in an interview that a criminal can use credit card numbers without the actual cards by "being a con man."

"They give a sob story and people fall for it," Wood said.

He said such thieves often make a purchase over the phone, saying they are paying for someone else who will pick up the item or make use of the service. He said that if a card is presented and turns out to be fraudulent, the bank takes the loss, but if no card is presented, the merchant loses.

Wood said that the cardholder is responsible for only a token amount when charges are made on a stolen or lost card.

A spokeswoman for Bank of America said credit card companies detect suspicious card activity via a computer program that monitors geographical and chronological use of the card.


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