Watch out retailers, counterfeit receipts used for returns

I once knew someone who would walk into a store like Target, put a vacuum or something expensive in their cart and go straight to the return department. They would ‘return’ the item and get store credit as that is the usual policy when you do not have receipt. He did this about once a month for years in a row until he went to jail for a separate crime. I have no idea what he does these days.

Had he known Ishaan Davis, they could have been good crime buddies. Ishaan Davis is behind a $400,000 receipt scam. He would make counterfeit receipts and use them to return stolen merchandise to stores.

The scam

A group of give, lead by Ishaan Davis, Ingrid Millsaps, and Leo Lewis stole clothes from various retailers and made fake receipts to match the items they stole. From there they would return the product with the receipt and get a cash refund. They did this for 11 years, stealing over $400,000 worth or products. Brands that were stolen include Gap, Ann Taylor and the Loft among many others. They also stole the receipt paper.

Two others working with them, Shonta Simpson, and William Randall Estes, helped in the scam and were paid a daily wage and part of the money received from the returns.
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Hard Work

When it came to stealing the clothes, this group worked hard. On a order to get more clothes for these illegal returns, Millsaps stole $60,000 worth of clothes during a three week period. To make sure retailers did not catch on, the group switched stole from neighboring states.

How they were caught

They were eventually caught, not in the act, but from a traffic stop by the police. Perhaps they should have learned their constitutional rights when it comes to searches instead of learning how to rip off companies. The police found in the search a laptop, a Star TSP 100 Future Print receipt printer, and counterfeit driving licences. Also in the search they found stolen clothes with the tags still attached.

Jail time

Davis and Millsaps received 87 months in prison, Simpson got 18 months and Estes for 366 days.

How to protect yourself from people like this

Merchants can solve this problem very easily. They just need to develop a simple receipt verification system. Just match real receipt numbers to a database. If they are not found in that database, they must be fake. You can also track returns so that a receipt can’t be used more then once. The current method to prevent re-use of receipts is to mark them with a color pen.

Missouri Eastern District Court, Case No. 4:12-cr-00450

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