Two charged with running gift-card scheme

December 11, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A Berkeley County man and woman are accused of pawning Lowe's home improvement store gift cards they received after returning merchandise they took off shelves but didn't pay for at stores in three states.

John Franklin Collins III, 28, and Nicole Marie Shifflett, 22, of 762 Pitzer Chapel Road in Martinsburg, were arraigned Friday by Magistrate Sandra L. Miller on charges of committing a fraudulent scheme and conspiracy to commit a fraudulent scheme, according to court records.

Collins also was arraigned on one count of petit larceny and two other charges in unrelated cases, according to court records.

West Virginia State Police Cpl. J.D. Burkhart said he discovered at least 37 fraudulent transactions totaling $8,877.71 between April and July 2009 at Lowe's stores in Hagerstown, Martinsburg, Frederick, Md., and Winchester, Va., according to his complaint.


"Mr. Collins advised (in an interview) he usually would take 5 gallons of stain (off the shelf in the store) and return them because they were expensive items," according to Burkhart's complaint.

Collins said he would receive a gift card for the "returned" item because he did not have a receipt, according to court records.

Collins said his girlfriend was with him for some of the transactions and he used her identification card to make some of the fraudulent returns, according to Burkhart's complaint.

Seventeen fraudulent returns with a value of $3,504.96 were processed at the Martinsburg store between April 3 and June 17 and were attributed to Collins or Shifflett, or to her brother's identification card, Burkhart wrote.

Collins allegedly told police that upon obtaining the gift cards, he sold them at Famous Pawn Brokers in Ranson, W.Va., or Martinsburg for half the value, according to Burkhart's complaint.

In a separate case, Collins admitted that he stole a garbage disposal unit from the Lowe's in Martinsburg, but left it along the railroad tracks after the pawn shop declined to buy it, Burkhart wrote.

In an interview Friday, Burkhart said the type of fraudulent activity was not isolated in the area, citing a recent arrest in Jefferson County.

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