WICHITA FALLS-- Wichita Falls police say they've busted one of the largest credit card theft rings in the department's history. By the time their investigation is over, detectives believe the amount of stolen loot will top $150,000.
The merchandise includes everything from big screen TV's to video game systems. The ring is even accused of buying lumber and other supplies to build a house.
So far, only two people have been arrested, but detectives believe five or six people are involved altogether. Investigators say the group and their crime spree was highly organized. However, it was only a matter of time until cops tracked them down.
It started in October when police say Martha Maceyra and her daughter, Heather Notter, went looking for victims at local merchants. They looked specifically for victims who looked a lot like they did. "They would follow them around," said Detective Steven Venable of the Wichita Falls Police Department. "If they were able to get their wallets out of their purses without being noticed, they would steal the wallets and leave."
From there, cops say they were off to other stores to buy expensive electronics. They hit between 20 and 25 businesses before turning around and selling the stuff, sometimes acting like their own catalogue shop.
"They were taking orders and then once they received these orders, they would go to the stores and purchase specifically what they were asked to get for the money," said Venable.
When they weren't taking orders, detectives say they were looking for other customers, selling the stolen goods for about half of retail prices.
"They would buy five or six big screen TV's..maybe go to some local bars and walk in and say 'Hey, does anybody want to purchase a boxed big screen TV for $400 or $500?' " said Venable.
The pair is also accused of buying and selling supplies to build a house on City View Drive in the Falls. Detectives started piecing together the fraudulent sales by looking at credit card statements, receipts and store surveillance video. That led them to Maceyra and Notter, as well as some of the stolen loot at their houses.
"We anticipate this is probably just a quarter of the amount that we're looking for as far as merchandise that was purchased," said Venable.
Doing the math, detectives are still trying to round up more than $100,000 in merchandise. They're asking anyone who may have bought some of it to call them right away.