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Man and woman plead guilty in fraudulent gift card scheme

August 13, 2010

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A Berkeley County man and woman accused of fraudulent gift card activity at Lowe's home improvement stores in three states have agreed to enter pleas in the case.

John Franklin Collins III, 29, who is being held at Eastern Regional Jail, signed an agreement to enter a guilty plea to one count of fraudulent schemes and one count of conspiracy, his attorney on Thursday told presiding 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh.

Collins faces a one-year jail sentence for the fraudulent scheme charge and a one- to five-year sentence for conspiracy, according to the plea agreement.

Groh is expected to decide Sept. 23 whether to accept the plea.

Nicole Marie Shifflett, 23, of 762 Pitzer Chapel Road in Martinsburg, previously signed an agreement to enter a guilty plea to one felony count of conspiracy to commit fraudulent schemes, according to court records.

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A one- to five-year prison sentence would be suspended and Shifflett would be placed on supervised probation for three years, according to the plea agreement.

Groh is expected to consider Shifflett's plea next month.

Authorities documented more than 30 fraudulent transactions totaling nearly $9,000 between April and July 2009 at Lowe's stores in Hagerstown, Martinsburg, Frederick, Md., and Winchester, Va., according to a complaint filed by West Virginia State Police Cpl. J.D. Burkhart in Berkeley County Magistrate Court.

Police discovered the couple pawned Lowe's gift cards they received after returning merchandise they took off shelves but didn't pay for at the stores, according to court records.

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