St. George man faces felony theft charge after allegedly stealing customer loyalty points

ST. GEORGE — A St. George man was arrested and charged for allegedly stealing customers’ loyalty points and using them to purchase merchandise at local convenience stores.

On Friday, 40-year-old John Russell Potter was charged with one third-degree felony count of theft and one class A misdemeanor count of computer crimes, according to the probable cause statement filed in support of his arrest.

Investigation into the alleged crimes began April 1 when St. George Police officers responded to a convenience store on report of a fraud involving a store manager, identified as Potter, who was no longer employed by the business.

Previously an assistant manager for the company, Potter was promoted to manager over two stores in January 2018 before quitting five months later. He was then rehired as a store manager in January, which is when police say he accessed a software program that manages the company’s customer loyalty point system.

The system uses the unique, 16-digit number that is assigned to each individual rewards card for tracking purpose. Whenever a customer uses the card at the store, they accrue points with each purchase, which equates to cash that can be used to purchase in-store merchandise.

John Russell Potter, 40, of St. George, booking photo posted in Washington County, Utah, June 15, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

As a store manager, Potter had credentials that allowed him access to the loyalty point program which could be accessed from any computer using his login information.

According to the probable cause statement, an audit conducted by the store revealed that Potter had been accessing certain files in the software program that went beyond what he was authorized to open in order to transfer points from customers’ cards onto at least three cards that only he had access to.

Auditors tracked specific transfers made from each customer’s card and determined how and when the points were used. The analysis also showed that the total number of points allegedly transferred to the three cards belonging to Potter was equivalent to more than $2,027. Of that, police say Potter spent nearly $1,500 in purchases made at the stores.

Following his arrest Friday, Potter was transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane. When police attempted to question him at the jail, he reportedly requested an attorney, and the interview was terminated.

Potter was released Thursday after posting a $6750 bond and is scheduled for an initial appearance in 5th District Court Friday afternoon.

This is the second brush with the law for Potter within the last three months. In March, he was one of six men arrested during an online sting operation conducted by federal agents with assistance from Dixie State University campus police.

Read more: 6 arrested in St. George sting operation involving child sexual exploitation, enticement

In that case, Potter allegedly made arrangements to meet a 13-year-old to engage in sexual activity. He was charged March 6 with second-degree felony enticing a minor by internet or text.

This report is based on statements from police and may not contain the full scope of findings. 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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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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