SPRING HILL, Tenn. (WKRN) — Spring Hill police are cracking down on a major crime ring with potential ties to similar crimes up and down the eastern seaboard.
The Spring Hill Police Department recently deployed teams of undercover officers to work at local shopping centers looking for criminal behavior.
November 19, officers arrested two Romanian Nationals, including 24-year-old Ariana Muntean, and her husband, 29-year-old Dorel Muntean.
Officer Byron Davis was wearing a body camera. After discovering gift cards from many different stores, he asked Ariana Muntean “Why do you have so many gift cards?” She answered, “Because I like to buy them.”
Later in the stop, you hear her husband Dorel Muntean ask the officers, “Am I under arrest?”
“Absolutely, yes,” Davis responds.
A shocked Dorel Muntean says, “That’s what you are telling me.”
Davis then informs the couple, who possess Florida IDs with New York addresses, “Just got you at Home Depot. We have an open investigation on you right now at Walmart. And we just got you doing Kohls and Brentwood up here.”
According to investigators, the Romanian Nationals have been driving from state to state, from the Northeast to the southern states.
According to Lt. Robert Carden, the duo has allegedly been tricking unsuspecting store clerks into handing over cash using an elaborate scam known as the “quick change.”
Police tell News 2 it’s a term used when someone goes into a store, buys an inexpensive item, and then aggressively begins to argue with the clerk about the amount of the price or change owed. The conman often accuses the clerk of trying to rip the consumer off. The idea, according to police, is to create confusion and uncertainty. Then they trick the clerk into refunding more money to the criminals than they started with. The criminals also leave with the item they were purchasing in the first place.
Lt. Carden adds, “They are very good at what they do. They will try and single out one clerk. They target someone who looks very busy or someone younger and not as experienced.”
A search of the couple’s car turned up lots of newly-purchased merchandise
from across the country. Officer Davis also found store receipts from all over the country.
“Spring Hill, Spartanburg, South Carolina, Asheville, North Carolina,” Davis says.
Police seized nearly $1,600 from the couple. Police say the money was oddly stacked in the center console.
“It’s odd,” Davis said to the couple.
In addition to gift cards, officers also found multiple IDs and a bag of stolen mail with addresses from all over the USA.
“You can use the mail to open credit cards and get fake addresses to have things shipped. We are certain they are part of a much larger organization,” Lt. Carden said.
The suspects are currently in the Maury County Jail and each have a $10,000 bond.
Spring Hill police say they are currently talking with police agencies around the country about the couple.