SPRING HILL, Tenn. (WKRN) — Spring Hill Police arrested two people suspected of being involved in a nationwide theft ring.
It happened Saturday outside a store in The Crossings shopping center. Police tell News 2 that a man and woman stole a credit card from a shopper at Target.
Police say the duo is part of a larger ring that uses distraction techniques to essentially pick-pocket shoppers of their credit cards.
Once the thieves have the credit card, they load up gift cards that they can redeem anywhere.
Lieutenant Mike Foster with Spring Hill Police Department says the operation involves tens of thousands of dollars and possibly hundreds of victims across the country.
On Saturday, officers got a call from loss prevention officers after being tipped by a female shopper that a man and woman stole her credit card from her purse. Officers responded a quickly arrested the couple, identified as 37-year-old Saul Alejandro Serrano Vega from Van Nuys, California and 27-year-old Maria Guzman from Long Beach, California.
“You don’t speak English?” The officer asked the woman on bodycam.
“No,” she responded.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“My name? Maria,” she responded.
“Do you have an American ID?” the officer asked.
“No. No,” she said.
Spring Hill Police tell News 2 that the suspects had ID cards, but investigators believe there’s a strong possibility that the IDs are counterfeit.
“Right, we are working with our law enforcement partners in an attempt to identify these two individuals. They did have ID on them, but as you know, it can be counterfeit. Their true identity remains unknown,” said Lt. Foster.
According to investigators, while one member of the duo distracted a female shopper, the other stole a credit card out of her purse. Then, police say the duo quickly used the stolen credit card, putting more than $1,000 on two gift cards.
“They are part of a nationwide organization. These are just low people on the totem pole. They are working with 10 to 15 others in the area, coordinating their efforts, going from location to location,” said Lt. Foster.
While the duo didn’t say anything to police, investigators did find hundreds of gift cards in the couple’s car.
Police are still investigating, but so far, the gift cards appear to be from stores all around the country and the total amount on the cards totals more than $22,000.
Lt. Foster says the gift cards allow the criminals to easily move from location to location, committing crimes and staying out of the eye of law enforcement.
“Yes, they can go to another store, buy merchandise with that, return the merchandise, and turn it into cash. And then they can fund any type of criminal activity, human trafficking, drugs, whatever.”
Both suspects are in the Maury County Jail, and both declined to be interviewed for this story. They are both held on no bond because they are considered a flight risk.
Police urge shoppers to be cognizant of their surroundings, urging patrons not to leave purses unattended in a shopping cart.
Lt. Foster says to be on the lookout for individual thieves who might not appear to be together but are working in concert to distract you to steal your valuables inside stores you feel comfortable shopping in.