Eighty-six bogus but active credit cards were seized by Lewisburg Police detectives Thursday after stopping two Florida residents who allegedly bought gift cards at Wal-Marts here, eastern Tennessee and Georgia.
Both defendants were in Marshall County General Sessions Court on Tuesday morning where they and Judge Steve Bowden needed an interpreter to communicate. Both are represented by Public Defender's Office attorneys and the defendants remain in the Marshall County jail.
The U.S. Secret Service, an agent with the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force and city detectives co-operated toward the arrest and investigation of Pedro Garcia, 40, of Miami, Fla., and Giraldo Volez, 36, of Homestead, a Miami suburb, Detective Sgt. David Henley said.
Volez is charged with 10 counts of fraudulent use of credit cards and criminal simulation, meaning counterfeiting credit cards, Henley said. Garcia was arrested on nine counts each of the two charges.
"It's a pretty sophisticated operation," Henley said of the physical and electronic manufacture of credit cards. "Other people are involved."
"A lot" of money was obtained by the two, the detective sergeant said. "We have a large number of gift cards and we're sorting that out."
Interstate commerce issues arise in this case, as well as counterfeiting, two federal issues, but it was an agent of the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force who led Lewisburg Police to Garcia and Volez. The task force's immediate jurisdiction is Marshall, Bedford, Lincoln and Moore counties.
Headquartered in Shelbyville, it was a task force agent who saw a gray Expedition in Shelbyville and became suspicious for undisclosed reasons, so he followed the SUV to Lewisburg where Henley and city police detectives James Johnson and Scott Braden began their surveillance of the vehicle containing Garcia and Volez.
After noon on Thursday, the two allegedly bought gift cards with phony credit cards at the Wal-Mart here and they were observed by detective walking from the building to the SUV in the parking lot where the receipts were discarded, Henley said. Braden recovered the receipts as Henley and Johnson followed the SUV and stopped it.
Garcia and Volez were booked into the jail at about 12:45 a.m. Friday, public records show.
The defendants are legally in the United States, Henley said. They apparently have legal work visas.
Meanwhile, city detectives continue to investigate a murder, a shooting and a bank robbery.
"The wheels of justice are turning slowly, but we are making progress every day and still want the public's assistance," Henley said, noting the detectives' office number is 359-3800 and Crime Stoppers' is 359-4867.