A conspiracy involving 381 fraudulent returns at Lowe’s stores in 11 states over a five-year period culminated in felony charges against five individuals in Indiana's Allen County Superior Court on Oct. 26.
The bar code switching scam, which operated between November 2005 and October 2010, was ultimately uncovered by Lowe's loss prevention department, according to court papers. The suspects allegedly purchased inexpensive items and then returned them, without a receipt, using a counterfeit bar code or one from a similar but higher priced item. In exchange, they received Lowe's gift cards.
Members of the group were able to avoid "frequent returns" system safeguards by using altered identification, investigators said.
The financial loss to Lowe's was estimated at $125,000. Of the 381 fraudulent returns, 276 occurred in the state of Indiana, according to court papers. A U.S. Secret Service agent with the Indianapolis field office assisted with the investigation.
Charged with corrupt business influence, a felony, and engaging in racketeering activity were Russell Creager, 40; Vanessa Jamison, 32; Katoya Lipscomb, 29; James Bennett, 40; and David Height, 56. All were residents of Allen County, Ind.