Mexican Man Charged with "Ticket Switch" Fraud at Home Depot
BUFFALO, N.Y.--U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that a federal grand jury has returned a two-count indictment charging Luis Alcalar Vasquez, 36, a citizen of Mexico, with possessing false identification documents and unauthorized access devices. The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison terms and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul J. Campana, who is handling the case, stated that according to the indictment and a criminal complaint filed in April 2013, the defendant obtained high-end merchandise at various Home Depot stores in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and New York by scanning bar codes for lower ticketed items at self check-out stations. Vasquez scanned the bar codes for the lower cost items but took the more expensive items out of the stores. For example, the defendant scanned the bar code for a sink priced at $59.95 but actually left the store with a sink costing $444.79. Vazquez then returned the higher ticketed merchandise to another Home Depot location in exchange for stored value cards.
By early March, 2013, Home Depot became aware that the “ticket-switch” and refund transactions were being executed at stores in Western New York. On March 7, 2013, at stores in West Seneca, Buffalo, and Cheektowaga, sinks costing $444.79 were exchanged for stored value cards in that amount.
Later on March 7, at Home Depot’s store in Lockport, the defendant tried to use a California driver’s license bearing his picture but a different name, in order to return merchandise valued at $700.55. However, Home Depot personnel stopped the transaction and called Niagara County Sheriff’s Office deputies to the Lockport store, where they took the defendant into custody. Niagara County Sheriff’s Office investigators found Vasquez had 20 false California drivers licenses in three different names but all bearing the defendant’s picture, and 17 Home Depot stored value cards worth approximately $5,910. Two cell phones with bar codes taped to their backs were found on the defendant.
The losses to Home Depot as a result of the fraud exceeded $30,000.
The indictment is the culmination of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel and the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, under the direction of James Votour.
The fact that a defendant has been charge with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.