Police say a Cobleskill man was involved in a scam that cost credit card companies as much as $20,000 a day while gathering loot that was distributed throughout the country and to Nigeria.
Cobleskill Police Department Investigator Rich Bialkowski said Walter S. Martin, 65, likely started out as a victim of the Nigeria-based criminal enterprise but investigators allege his involvement evolved to the point where he was working with the group.
The investigation, which began after a complaint by Citibank North America, uncovered a large bounty of goods purchased either with victim’s credit cards or credit cards police said Martin and his cohorts were able to establish using victim’s personal information. Other credit card companies were targeted in addition to Citibank, Bialkowski said.
He said police found numerous credit cards issued in Martin’s name, as well as cards belonging to others. Police believe Martin would use the credit cards to buy items like those investigators found in his home: iPads, jewelry, gold bullion, laptop computers, clothing and a “little of everything.”
Bialkowski said police believe Martin was sending the merchandise to people in other states or Nigeria or selling them online on Craiglist or eBay and sending the proceeds to Nigeria.
He said at this stage of the investigation, police haven’t found any local victims. Bialkowski said it’s unlikely there will be any arrests in Nigeria.
He said people should make sure to use a common-sense approach to avoid being victimized. He said people should only make transactions online using secure sites, and they should check their credit history on a regular basis.
The U.S. Secret Service and office of Schoharie County District Attorney James Sacket assisted in the investigation, according to Cobleskill police.
Albany-based Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge William Leege referred questions to Cobleskill police. Sacket could not be reached Tuesday.
Martin was charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property and two counts each of third-degree identity theft and third-degree unlawful possession of personal identification information. He was released on appearance tickets.