Nov. 15—Three Maryland residents arrested after using a stolen credit card at stores in Hempfield and North Huntingdon told state police they were involved in a global identity theft crime ring, according to court papers.
The three suspects used the stolen credit card Nov. 9 to purchase nearly $2,000 in gift cards, police said. Additional gift card purchases totaling almost $2,000 were declined.
Troopers were notified around noon of three suspicious people at the self-checkout in the Hempfield Walmart store where one Visa gift card was purchased using the credit card. The second transaction was declined, according to court papers.
The same trio arrived at the North Huntingdon Walmart where police said they again used the credit card to purchase one Visa gift card, with the second attempted transaction being declined. Their license plate information was relayed to township police, who conducted a traffic stop.
Maria Branchi, 26; Minodora Serban, 33; and Vasile Catola, 28, all of Baltimore, told investigators that they found the credit card lying in a parking lot and used it to buy the gift cards, according to court papers. They had fake identification from Romania, police said.
The trio told authorities that they had been working with a large crime organization to steal identities to purchase gift cards. Troopers at the Greensburg station reported they have investigated multiple thefts in which female suspects with a foreign accent used distraction techniques.
The three suspects are charged with corrupt organizations, theft, access device fraud, receiving stolen property and related offenses. They are being held at the Westmoreland County Prison without bail. Preliminary hearings are set for Nov. 22. None of the suspects had attorneys listed in online court records.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .