A Brooklyn, N.Y., man is being held on federal charges alleging he used someone else’s credit card numbers to rack up close to $100,000 in bogus charges at multiple Walmarts.

Police say the arrest could provide a link to a sophisticated fake-credit-card ring.

Shaheem Shaw, 23, appeared in U.S. District Court in Portland on Thursday and was ordered held pending a bail hearing Tuesday.

Authorities say Shaw was arrested at the Biddeford Walmart last week as he tried to buy $5,000 in gift cards and an iPod Touch using a fake American Express card.

The card’s numbers were assigned to the owner of a legitimate company in Washington State and had been used fraudulently throughout New England. The card was thinner than an authentic card and the phone number on the back was missing one digit, according to an affidavit prepared by Matthew Fasulo, an agent with the U.S. Secret Service.

Walmart staff called Biddeford police when Shaw attempted to make the purchase. Store employees told police they suspected that several people had used counterfeit credit cards to buy gift cards the week before.

American Express told authorities in Maine that they were aware of several groups of people using counterfeit American Express cards at Walmarts throughout New England.

Police say Shaw had two fake American Express cards with different numbers — the other was assigned to a company in Utah — and a Sony MasterCard that Shaw admitted was also not his.

Police say Shaw offered a vague explanation, saying he was in Maine for a “business conference” with a man he knew only as “Calvin.” Shaw said they were staying at a Hampton Inn, but didn’t know where it was located.

At a Hampton Inn in Dover, N.H., police found a car with New Jersey plates that they suspected was linked to the scam. Officers followed the car and pulled it over in Massachusetts.

A search of the car turned up partially destroyed credit cards with Shaw’s name on them hidden behind the glove box, court records say. Investigators also found two new laptop computers and several Ipod Touches as well as 15 gift cards from Walmart and other retailers.

The court records do not indicate whether the men in the car were charged.

Shaw said he was not involved in creating the fake credit cards. They were given to him and he was instructed to purchase gift cards with them, he said.

One American Express card had been used to make $70,000 in purchases at several Walmarts in Maine and New Hampshire from April 21-26. Stores in Farmington and Waterville provided security photos that appear to show Shaw making several thousand dollars in purchases at each store.

The other American Express card was used at the Rochester, N.H., Walmart to make more than $20,000 in purchases, the court records said.

About $47,000 in charges were denied during this period.

Biddeford Deputy Police Chief JoAnne Fisk said police are often called to big department stores, but usually for shoplifting. Fraudulent credit card use at the local Walmart has been rare, she said.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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