Five Birmingham women are charged in Jefferson and Shelby counties after lawmen say they stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from area Walmart stores.
The U.S. Secret Service Financial Crimes Task Force announced the arrests of Ariel Mack, 26, Daricka Mack, 25, Andrea McCracklin, 32, Zipporah Davis, 20, and Denise Gamble, 24. The task force is made up of investigators from the U.S. Secret Service, Vestavia Hills, Mountain Brook, Homewood and Birmingham police and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.
Authorities said the women worked together to commit fraud known as the “Cash Cash Scam,” a well-known scheme that has caused significant losses to Walmart nationwide. The scheme involves the suspects tricking cashiers into fraudulently loading pre-paid gift cards.
Vestavia Hills police Lt. Steve Gurley said it works like this: The suspect will enter a Walmart store and befriend the cashier, often saying he or she also has previously worked as a clerk. As they get ready to check out, they have several ways they might get the cash register to open which is a sign to the real cashier that a transaction is complete.
The suspect either knows what buttons to push to open the register and will distract the clerk while doing so or will give the cashier a code to put in that will trigger the register opening. Often they will go through the one aisle at Walmart that sells cigarettes and will, at the last minute, ask for pack so the clerk will turn his or her back. At that point, the suspect will enter the code to open the register.
Usually, Gurley said, the suspect is buying the prepaid cards with a bogus credit card. By getting the register to open, the cashier believes the transaction went through and loads the money onto the gift card.
“It’s nothing new,” Gurley said. “It’s a scam going on all across the country. We figure out one thing they’re doing, and and they start something else.”
Task force investigators worked with Walmart Global Investigations to identify the suspects in this one Birmingham group, and then the arrests were made. Store investigators were able to spot a trend and then use surveillance video to identify them.
Authorities said the group is responsible for a loss of more than $250,000 in Jefferson and Shelby counties.
All were arrested last month on felony theft charges and released from the county jails on bonds ranging from $10,000 to $60,000. Their first court appearances are scheduled for March and April.
Police said additional charges are pending, and detectives are working to identify other suspects in this case.