Two Charlotte residents and a New York man have been charged in what Lincoln County authorities say was a fraudulent gift card scheme, and they say an observant store clerk was the key to breaking the case.
Lincoln County sheriff’s deputies arrested the trio last Saturday after a convenience store clerk noted that the account number on the receipt for three cartons of cigarettes bought by the three suspects did not match the account number on the gift card they used.
Larry Seagle, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, says investigators suspect an unwitting victim’s bank account was used to make the purchases.
“The victim is unknown at this time,” Seagle said. “The case is still under investigation, to determine how the cards were obtained.”
Investigators say the shopping spree covered at least four counties.
Charged in the case were Albert Leonard Alexander Jr., 43, of Charlotte; Justin Louis Wright, 28, of Onondaga, N.Y.; and Patricia Louise Thompson, 38, of Charlotte.
Alexander and Wright each was charged with felony obtaining property by false pretenses and resisting, delaying and obstructing an officer. Alexander also was charged with driving with a revoked license. Thompson was charged with felony conspiracy and misdemeanor aiding and abetting.
The arrests were made after the three suspects tried to make a purchase at Murphy’s Express, on N.C. 73 in Denver. When the clerk noticed a discrepancy in the account numbers, she contacted authorities and gave them a description of the vehicle being used by the trio.
Deputies stopped the vehicle at a nearby parking lot. They say the driver, later identified as Alexander, got out of the car and approached deputies. They said he refused to get back into the vehicle when ordered to do so by deputies.
Authorities say the man tried running toward N.C. 73, and a deputy fired a stun gun at the man. But the stun gun had little effect, because the man was wearing a heavy coat. The deputy caught the man, and with the help of three bystanders, handcuffed him.
A second deputy chased after the other man, identified as Wright. Authorities say the man ran into an auto parts store on N.C. 73 and locked himself in the bathroom. Store officials got a key to the restroom, and the man was taken into custody.
Thompson was arrested when she approached a deputy and asked for the vehicle.
On Monday, two days after the arrests, sheriff’s deputies searched the vehicle, which had been rented in Charlotte, and say they found more than 60 cartons of cigarettes and other items. They allege the three suspects used the fraudulent gift cards to buy items in Mecklenburg, Iredell, Catawba and Lincoln counties over an 8 1/2-hour period that ended about 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Many thanks to the clerk for her attentiveness in observing the numbers that didn’t match up during the checkout process,” Sheriff David Carpenter said. “Hats off to her for helping us.”
Lincoln County authorities say they have notified investigators in surrounding counties, and they say the investigation is continuing.