A Chicago Heights man is facing identity theft charges after police said he manufactured fake credit cards using stolen information to buy merchandise at area Best Buy stores.
The alleged scheme began to unravel when a confidential source tipped off Homewood Police that the Faheem Muhammad, 27, had been using an embosser machine to make credit cards using victims’ credit card numbers. Muhammad would order merchandise on Best.Buy.com, then go to the stores to pick up the items, police said.
In January, the manager of the Homewood Best Buy store contacted police about a pattern of fraud in Muhammad and another associate’s purchases, police said.
According to the report, the manager stated that she had observed numerous Internet orders under Muhammad’s name, but with different home addresses and credit card numbers.
Homewood Police opened an investigation, where they soon learned that Muhammad and his friend had allegedly made previous pickups at Best Buy stores in Orland Park, Elmwood Park, Tinley Park and Merrillville, IN.
On March 3, police were notified that Muhammad was curreintly in the Homewood store attempting to pick up a Samsung TV valued at $799, and a pair of Beats by Dre headphones retailing for $379, reports said.
The employee took a photo of Muhammad’s ID and credit card, and forwarded it to police. After Muhammad signed for the merchandise and left the store, the employee was able to pick him out of a police photo lineup.
Police staked out Muhammad’s residence in the 400 block of Hamilton Woods, when they saw him approaching his house driving a Dodge Magnum. After he and his girlfriend were removed from the car, officers also learned that Muhammad was driving on a suspended license, police said.
He was taken into custody and handcuffed. Police pulled four of the allegedly self-manufactured credit cards from his pants pocket.
Muhammad and his girlfriend were taken to the Homewood police station, where his girlfriend was eventually released without being charged.
Police said that Muhammad told them they could find the Best Buy merchandise at his residence. He also signed a consent form giving officers permission to search his home.
His mother allowed officers into the house, where police observed five Beats By Dre boxes in the living room. The 55-inch Samsung TV was found sitting on the kitchen floor, reports said.
A search of Muhammad’s bedroom yielded a silver embosser and 43 credit cards, along with miscellaneous papers containing people’s financial information and $1,660 cash.
Police also recovered a .22 caliber J.C. Higgins-Model long rifle from underneath Muhammad’s mattress, reports said.
At the station, Muhammad allegedly told police that a man in Ghana contacted him on Yahoo messenger about a year ago, asking if he wanted to make some money. The African contact told Muhammad that he would place Internet orders to Best Buy. All Muhammad had to do was go into the store with the man’s ID and retrieve the merchandise.
“I was told to sell the merchandise on the street and then send half of the money back to him through Western Union to Ghana, Africa,” Muhammad reportedly told police.
After doing this a few times, the report said, Muhammad recruited a friend to help him make pick-ups at area Best Buy stores.
Police said that Muhammad admitted to knowing his African contact was using people’s credit card information because he would send Muhammad their bank information and home addresses. He did not know how his African contact was getting this information, but knew that the man was placing orders over the Internet.
Eventually, Muhammad bought an embosser, which he would use to imprint the victim’s credit card number and his own name on a blank credit card, so the card matched the person’s information that he used to purchase merchandise, police said.
Muhammad, his friend and African contact would place fraudulent orders to random Best Buys in the surrounding area. He allegedly confessed to embossing cards with his own name or his friend's, matching the stolen information provided by the African contact.
Muhammad was charged with one felony count of identity theft, driving on a suspended license, and unlawful possession of a weapon without a FOID card.
He was being held pending a bond hearing at the time of the report, police said.