Seven people believed to be connected to a credit card theft ring that involves potentially hundreds of victims have been arrested by local authorities, The McDuffie Mirror has learned.
At least two of the suspects taken into custody have direct ties to a case involving Washington State Police, according to McDuffie County Sheriff's Department Investigator Larry Adaway.
"This is an ongoing investigation and we anticipate more charges being filed against those already in custody," Investigator Adaway told reporters last Monday. "We've been involved in this investigation since February."
Investigator Adaway said additional arrests might involve several counties in the Central Savannah River Area. The veteran investigator said the local sheriff's department, along with the Thomson Police Department and Warren County Sheriff's Department have been involved in the probe. A Washington State Police detective also joined the investigation.
Investigator Adaway said Detective David Startup spent several days with local authorities working the case.
Investigator Adaway said at least 80 credit card numbers assigned to the Washington State Police have been compromised. Local authorities have linked at least one of those stolen numbers to two of the people arrested.
"We've put a lot of hours into investigating the case so far," Mr. Adaway said. "I can tell you now, there's going to be a lot more hours put into it before we're finished. The magnitude of this investigation stretches so far. We don't know when or where it's going to end."
Those arrested are:
- Lakita Sinkfield
- Avery Thomas
- Lindsey Roberts, and
- Shontae Thomas, all of Thomson;
- Shawana Walker, 27, of the 100 block of Otis Jones Road, Warrenton;
- Keith Cummings, 25, of the 300 block of Mendel Avenue, Thomson; and
- Antonio Tanksley, 37, of the 300 block of Bell Road, Norwood.
Charges against the suspects differ. Several suspects remain jailed in the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center in Thomson.
Those charged with one count of transaction financial card fraud include: Ms. Sinkfield, Mr. Thomas, Ms. Roberts, Mr. Cummings and Mr. Tanksley, Investigator Adaway said.
Ms. Thomas, who is the sister of Mr. Thomas, along with Ms. Walker, each are charged with seven counts of transaction financial card fraud and one count of credit card theft, he added.
Some of the arrests recently occurred in the parking lot of a business on West Hill Street in Thomson. Investigator Adaway said those arrests followed attempts to purchase auto parts with stolen credit card numbers. A variety of other items, such as flat screen television sets, cellular telephones and other items also have been purchased, he said.
Local authorities became aware of the crimes in February, Investigator Adaway said.
"We had learned that a lot of merchandise was being purchased with credit card numbers -- all thought to be legitimate transactions at the time," he said.
It later was learned that the purchases had been made unlawfully, which prompted an investigation by the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department.
At least two people were taken into custody after authorities with search warrants raided residences. Mr. Cummings was arrested after a raid at a residence on the 300 block of Mendel Avenue in Thomson. Mr. Tanksley was arrested after a raid at his residence on the 300 block of Bell Road in Norwood, Investigator Adaway said.