News Column

Possible link between Target fraud, border arrests?

January 21, 2014

By Donna Leinwand Leger, and Rick Jervis, USA TODAY

The U.S. Secret Service is investigating whether there is any connection between two Mexican nationals arrested at the border in South Texas this weekend and the massive breach of Target customer data that affected millions of shoppers. Mary Carmen Garcia , 27, and Daniel Guardiola Dominguez , 28, of Monterrey, Mexico , were arrested Sunday as they tried to re-enter the U.S. at the Mexican border. Lt. Joel Morales , a spokesman for the McAllen Police Department , said his department was alerted the week of Jan. 12 by area merchants that there had been fraudulent credit card activity at their stores. McAllen Police investigators contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Secret Service agents, who launched a joint investigation and zeroed in on the two suspects arrested Sunday, he said. The couple, had been buying "thousands of dollars" worth of mostly electronics at places like Best Buy , Wal-Mart and Toys R Us , Morales said. They were arrested Sunday as they tried to re-enter the U.S. at the Anzalduas International Bridge . They had about 90 fraudulent credit cards in their possession, he said. Federal agents have seized a total of 112 cards from them. Garcia and Dominguez each face six counts of credit or debit card abuse, state felonies that carry up to two years in prison, Morales said. In the course of the investigation, Secret Service field agents told McAllen Police officials that the credit card data used by the couple were part of the recent large theft of Target credit card information, Morales said. "We get them on occasion," Morales said of similar credit card fraud activity near the border. "Of this magnitude, this one stands out." But to what extent the pair are directly involved in the Target data breach remains unclear, according to U.S. authorities. It's also unknown how Garcia and Dominguez allegedly obtained the credit card numbers and how they came upon the stolen Target account information. "In regards to the arrests announced yesterday, the Secret Service is working with the U.S. Attorney's Office and McAllen Police Department to determine if there is any connection," the Secret Service said in a statement Tuesday. However, a senior official at Department of Homeland Security downplayed the possible connection, saying that there is no direct link between the Texas case and the Target breach. The official is not authorized to speak publicly about the case and spoke on condition of anonymity. The Target data breach in December affected 40 million credit and debit card accounts and the data of 70 million shoppers. Investigators identified the pair and their Nissan Sentra after reviewing "miles of video" from area merchants. Police prepared arrest warrants after the two were identified from a prior border crossing in the same vehicle, he said. Police then waited for them to return. Contributing: Associated Press , Gary Strauss Gabe Hernandez , The Monitor, via AP

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Source: USA Today

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