ST. GEORGE — A St. George pawn shop is out thousands of dollars after getting caught in a fraud scheme, which led to the arrest of two Indiana men.
The owner of Discount Pawn called police Friday to report suspicious men in his store. One of the men had attempted to purchase several pieces of jewelry valued at $4,100, according to a probable cause statement filed by St. George Police in support of the arrest.
The man – identified as Verquell Lee Williams, 31, of South Bend, Indiana – had the owner run his debit card several times to complete the purchase but the card was declined each time, the report states.
Williams then called someone on the phone and told the owner it was a customer service representative from the 1-800 number on the back of the card, the arresting officer wrote in the sworn statement, adding:
Verquell (Williams) then handed the phone to the pawn shop owner and the person on the other line began telling the owner how to enter some sort of transaction or authorization code. The owner stated the male on the other line was telling him things about his register system that even he didn’t know was possible.
Essentially, the person on the phone was telling the owner how to force the financial transaction through and override the system, the report states.
“The owner, however, was aware of ‘scams’ such as this, as he has had someone do this exact same thing previously,” the officer wrote in the statement.
The owner of the shop reportedly stalled the men and called police as well as a friend who owns Family Pawn Shop on 700 South in St. George, according to the statement.
When the owner of Family Pawn arrived at Discount Pawn during the investigation, he told police that one of the men – identified as Lamont Steve Jamerson Jr., 31, of South Bend, Indiana – had just pulled the same scheme at his business in which the debit card had been declined and a person on the phone walked the owner through the process of overriding the system, so the transaction would go through, the report states.
“(Williams) was successful and walked out with approximately $7,000 in jewelry,” the officer wrote, noting that the jewelry box was later found in the suspects’ vehicle but the jewelry was never recovered.
St. George police located information regarding the scam, known as “declined debit card override scam.” The information details how an initially declined debit card can be overridden by entering an authorization code given by the bank, the report states, adding:
However, the problem with this system is that any set of digits entered, regardless of their validity, will override the system and force the transaction through, leaving the store owner responsible for the loss of product fraudulently purchased.
Williams and Jamerson were both arrested and transported to the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility.
The Washington County Attorney’s Office filed an information in 5th District Court accusing both men of second-degree felony communications fraud, second-degree felony theft by deception and class A misdemeanor theft by deception.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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