An identity theft and fraud ring used shoppers’ stolen information to buy over $400,000 worth of designer shoes, handbags and accessories from Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship, with some employees aiding the scam, authorities said Monday.
The sophisticated scheme funneled stolen data to corrupt salespeople to create sham transactions, complete with phony “shoppers” on the other side of the register, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and federal authorities said. The haul included a roughly $10,000 Yves St. Laurent handbag, $2,000-a-pair shoes, and brand names such as Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin and Kate Spade, he said.
At least eight people – including four Saks employees – were being charged with various offenses.
“Time after time again, we see that insiders at companies enable theft to occur,” said Vance, whose office has prosecuted crimes it said were abetted by employees in settings ranging from pricey steakhouses to parking garages.
The latest case targeted the high-end store with a shoe department so well-known that it has its own special ZIP code: 10022-SHOE.
Vance said the ringleader was Tamara Williams, who he said obtained Social Security numbers, birth dates and other personal data for over 20 Saks credit card holders. Williams, 36, supplied the information to her accomplices on the sales floors, who used it to look up the shoppers’ Saks account numbers or otherwise complete needed details to ring up more than 90 fraudulent sales in six months, prosecutors said.
To make the transactions look legitimate, other accomplices would collect the merchandise, posing as the shoppers or functionaries sent on their behalf, prosecutors said.
Some items were sold on the black market, others were returned in exchange for Saks gift cards – then sold or used to pay the phony shoppers – and still others apparently became part of Williams’ wardrobe, Vance said. Investigators found hundreds of boxes of merchandise in her Queens home, he said.
Williams’ lawyer’s name wasn’t immediately available for comment Monday. Williams and the four salespeople were due in court later Monday on grand larceny, identity theft and other charges. Three of the alleged phony shoppers also have been charged.
Prosecutors credit Saks with initiating the investigation. A representative for Saks, part of Toronto-based Hudson’s Bay Co., didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about the case and the accused employees’ status.
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