Feds: Businessman, associates spent $3.5M at Sam's Club using bogus gift cards

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
A Sam's Club sign.

Federal officials have accused a Metro Detroit businessman and others of spending more than $3.5 million at Sam's Club using gift cards opened with stolen personal information.

According to an indictment filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, the Southeast Michigan Financial Crimes Task Force learned  Tarek Bazzi’s Detroit business, M&A Petro, “was a known fence for stolen goods and multiple individuals had sold countless fraudulently obtained merchandise to the location for several years.”

Investigators allege that between March 2014 and February 2016, the owner, his relatives and associates bought nearly $1.3 million in goods from area Sam’s Clubs under a business account. Most of those purchases were paid with gift cards that had been obtained using stolen credit cards and numbers then sold back at lower prices, authorities claim.

The set-up was illustrated when a task force investigator visited  M&A Petro twice in early 2016 to sell the owner gift cards “represented as being fraudulently obtained,” the indictment said. Both times, Bazzi paid less than the cards’ face value and then was seen on surveillance using them at a Sam’s Club in Southfield, according to the filing.

A federal investigation found Bazzi also owned several convenience stores in the region registered in his name or a relative’s. At each of those businesses during the operation's time frame, between $9,683 and $822,927 in Sam's Club goods were bought with fraudulently obtained gift cards, according to the indictment.

“Many items sold at these stores were purchased from Sam’s Club using fraudulently obtained gift cards,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote. “In some instances, Bazzi swiped the fraudulently obtained gift cards using the credit card terminal at one or more of his businesses in order to create a fictitious gas purchase transaction. This activity was intended to mislead the credit card processing company and induce it to credit Bazzi's account in the corresponding claimed ‘gas purchase,’ turning a gift card into cash.”

Bazzi could not be reached for comment. Court records did not list an attorney representing him.

Federal authorities are charging him with one count of wire fraud and two counts of access device fraud, according to the indictment.

Court records did not list an arraignment date.