OREM — Two California men were arrested after police say an attempt to buy guitars at an Orem music store led them to find thousands of dollars worth of stolen property and credit card numbers.
"We've run into identity theft rings that come out of California, but nothing like this," said Orem Police Lt. Craig Martinez.
On Thursday, officers were informed that a man bought $10,000 worth of guitars with fraudulent credit cards from Best in Music in Orem, Martinez said. The man left the store before authorities arrived.
Three hours later, officers received another call from Summerhays Music in Orem informing them that a similar situation was in progress. The suspect in that case was still at the store, but he did not match the description of the man in the Best in Music case.
Police arrested Robert Richardson, 24, at the Summerhays location and through questioning discovered he was working with Marc Anthony Martinez, 33, who is suspected in the first case, according to the lieutenant. Martinez is from Rosemead, Calif., and Richardson is from Glendora, Calif. The two were allegedly making credit cards using stolen credit card numbers.
During questioning, Orem police were informed that Martinez was staying at the Best Western Hotel in Springville. Officers issued a search warrant and arrested Marc Martinez after discovering $20,000 of property purchased with fraudulent credit cards, police said.
"We're got the credit card machine, we've got dozens and dozens of credit card numbers that they were going to use, or have used," said Craig Martinez. "We've got receipts and we've recovered stolen guitars, welders, generators — all worth an excess of thousands of dollars apiece."
The men were booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation of identity fraud, forgery, possession of stolen property, illegal use of a credit card, marijuana possession and other charges.
"Our case is pretty good," the lieutenant said.
The duo used an "interesting" method for obtaining credit card numbers, he said. The suspects used a phone number and entered information as if they were merchants attempting to pre-approve funds. If the credit card number passed, they would allegedly print it on a gift card they had purchased.
The men had a machine that would print the names and number on the card. Police said they would then "purchase items with that card until the money ran out or the card was canceled." The magnetic strip was defective, but Craig Martinez said it was easily explained away and retailers would manually enter the card numbers.
"This worked for tens of thousands of dollars worth of property, and that's just in Utah," he said. "We're assuming they've done this in states between California and here."
Police say the two were caught because of store employee alertness and the suspects' laziness.
"I think it tipped (store employees) off when you have someone walk into a music store wanting to buy a guitar worth $3,000, not even picking the thing up and strumming a few notes," the lieutenant said. "Unfortunately for (the suspects), they had just done it three hours earlier at a different music store in the same city."
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