VINTON, LA (WVUE) - A routine traffic stop turned into a federal investigation after detectives connected two New Orleans men to the Target security breach.
Izel Mayes,23, and Brian Smith, 21, were arrested late Sunday night on Interstate 10 in Vinton as police removed bags of merchandise from a rental car. Police said they found designer watches, electronics, name brand clothing – even fake marijuana.
Officers stopped the car for speeding and became suspicious when the driver and passenger had different stories about where they were headed.
When detectives searched the vehicle, they found bags of receipts.
"We were able to piece together some of the receipts to the point that we discovered that approximately $2,500 worth of merchandise was purchased by these individuals in the Houston area prior to being stopped," said Vinton Police Chief Ricky Fox.
And that wasn't all. Inside the pocket of a hoodie, detectives found 97 fake credit cards.
Fox said this type of arrest is unusual for his department, so he called in the Secret Service. Federal agents confirmed one of the counterfeit cards is a small piece in a much larger puzzle.
"One of these cards indicated during examination yesterday with the Secret Service that it was a number that was obtained during a breach of security at the Target company," Fox said.
The Target security breach in November was massive, involving 110 million customers. All of that information went up for sale on the black market. Authorities say that it's possibly being sold off regionally.
Last month, police in Texas arrested two Mexican citizens as they tried to enter the U.S. with 96 fraudulent cards that were also linked to the Target breach.
"This is just the beginning of this," Fox said. "People want to get something for nothing. It's out there, people know how to do it, and you can really protect yourself by really monitoring your accounts."
One of the suspects in the Vinton arrests, Mayes, was arrested in New Orleans on similar charges just three months ago. At the time, he was already on probation for possession of heroin.
Court records show he was due in Orleans Criminal Court Tuesday for a probation revocation hearing. Mayes is jailed in Calcasieu Parish on a $172,000 bond. Smith's bond is $150,000.
Both face 97 counts of identity theft and 97 counts of access device fraud.
Smith was also booked with one count of drug possession and one count of introducing contraband into a jail after authorities found balloons of heroin during a body cavity search.
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