Band of thieves stole $2M from Walmart, feds say

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Toriano Adams

Detroit — Federal prosecutors say a gang of thieves cloned credit cards and went on a $2 million, nationwide crime spree.

A 23-count indictment unsealed Wednesday charges eight members of the so-called Free Band Gang, a group of individuals who engaged in large-scale fraud targeting Walmart stores, authorities allege.

The group consisted of seven men from Metro Detroit and one from Brooklyn, New York. A grand jury indicted the members on multiple charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and aggravated identity theft.

Members obtained unauthorized copies of legitimate credit cards after gathering information through data breaches, spear phishing emails or skimming credit cards. The account information was pressed onto the front of blank credit cards or encoded on the card's magnetic strip, according to the indictment.

The indictment describes a sprawling crime spree spanning several states, a spree that started in October 2010, four months after Calhoun County prosecutors dropped murder charges against one of the gang's members, Toriano Adams, 32, of Eastpointe.

Adams is being held without bond pending a detention hearing Friday in federal court in Detroit.

Those charged in the indictment also include:

• Anthony Adans, 32, of Troy
• Devin Simmons, 32, of Sterling Heights
• Aatif Brown, 25, of Detroit
• OD Williams, 27, of Detroit
• Denico Adams. 26, of Detroit
• Rodney Gist, 27, of Detroit
• Tayan Jackson, 32, of Brooklyn, New York.

Aatif Brown

Gang members often bought $100,000 or more in gift cards from the Walmart stores in a single day, prosecutors allege. The members returned to Michigan with the gift cards, which they sold for cash.

"Over three years, the defendants allegedly stole millions of dollars in an organized, calculated scheme," U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement. "Because Michigan is a national leader in identity theft, we are literally working day and night to break up these fraud rings and put the perpetrators where they belong: in federal prison.” 

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