RIVERBANK -- Stanislaus County sheriff's officials arrested three people suspected of stealing credit cards and using them to buy merchandise from stores at the Crossroads shopping center then returning the goods for refunds, a department spokesman said.
Brandy Richards, 34, of Riverbank; Kendra Franks, 20, of Oakdale; and David Sigala, 42, of Riverbank were arrested on suspicion of burglary, said deputy Royjindar Singh.
Investigators were looking for a fourth person Saturday night, and sheriff's officials released a photo of the man from surveillance footage from one of the stores.
Singh said the scam produced $3,000 to $4,000 in refunds from the stores. The scam started with a series of vehicle and home burglaries in Riverbank starting Sept. 16.
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He said the suspects stole credit cards during the burglaries and later made their way to Riverbank's Crossroads shopping center at Claribel and Oakdale roads.
The suspects then looked for receipts customers threw away while walking out of such stores as Target and Home Depot. Singh said the suspects would dig through garbage cans or find the receipts on the ground.
He said the suspects picked receipts only with cash purchases and for high amounts. Credit card purchases are refunded by crediting the customer's account, while cash purchases are refunded with money.
The next step was to go to the store where the receipt originated and grab merchandise that matched the items on the receipt. Singh said the suspects purchased the items with the stolen credit cards.
He said the suspects would return to the stores, sometimes later the same day, and ask for a full refund using the cash receipts they had grabbed.
It was a scam that paid off until a man, whose credit card was stolen and used by the suspects, discovered the crime and called the Sheriff's Department.
Sheriff officials Thursday went to Target where the stolen credit card was used. Singh said the store's theft prevention officials provided surveillance footage of Richards using the credit card.
Later that day, sheriff's officials found Richards and arrested her. The investigation led officials to identify Franks and Sigala as suspects, and they were arrested the same day.
Sheriff's officials ask anyone with information about the fourth person's whereabouts to call Crime Stoppers at 521-4636.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2394.