Affidavit: Fake credit-card ring, busted in 2007, may be operating in Denver again

Robin Robinson arrested

DENVER - Investigators from the Economic Crimes unit at the Denver District Attorney's office are investigating the theft of a $6,000 from eight branches of the Bank of the West.

Court documents obtained by 7NEWS indicate that the theft may be linked to a fake credit card ring that has apparently resurfaced in Denver.

Ring members were originally indicted in 2007 on charges of racketeering and theft.

In the earlier crime spree, the Colorado ring leader, Tawana Smith, handed out the fake cards and directed her accomplices to purchase $60,000 in merchandise from high-end stores at Cherry Creek Shopping Center and the 16th Street Mall, according to court documents.

Smith pleaded guilty to racketeering and was sentenced to eight years in prison. She was released early and is now on parole. Court documents say she is apparently being supervised in New York.

Another member of that ring, Robin Robinson, pleaded guilty to theft and was sentenced to four years in prison.

Last July, Robinson was stopped by police officers and TSA agents at Denver International Airport after they found more than 70 blank Bank of America credit cards in her luggage.

Robinson was on her way to New York. She refused to tell police where she got the credit card blanks or to whom she was delivering them.

Police arrested Robinson in February after she allegedly sold two of the fake credit cards.

Last month, Bank of the West officials asked the Denver District Attorney's Office for help identifying people who were using a credit card cash-advance scheme to steal from the bank.

According to court documents, one of the DA’s investigators recognized Robin Robinson as one of the women shown on video tape conducting the transaction.

The document states that the same person obtained $6,000 cash from eight different Bank of the West branches on March 14 and 15, using a card with the name "Marlo Mason".

Investigators say the number used on the counterfeit card came from an America First Federal Credit Union credit card that was reported stolen on March 14 in Utah. America First reported that the name on the stolen card was not Marlo Mason, and that the victim was a 65-year-old woman living in Utah.

Bank of the West told the Denver DA they had photos of another woman conducting the same type of cash advance-scheme at branches in Denver and Arvada on March 17. The investigator said the photo reminded him of Tawana Smith.

Court documents state that Smith has more than 30 aliases and that she has used wigs, hair extensions, makeup and other devices to alter her appearance.

Investigators are trying to determine if Smith has any involvement in the current crimes, either in Denver or from New York.

While the Denver District Attorney’s office will not comment about the case because it is still under investigation, consumer advocates say it's not unusual for people who have spent time behind bars to re-offend, especially in situations involving economic crimes.

 "It's really about making a quick buck," said Barbara Martin-Worley, director of Consumer Protection for the 18th Judicial District Attorney's office. "You're talking about perpetrators who are highly skilled in what they've done."

Martin-Worley said that people who steal IDs for monetary gain often believe that they are not harming anyone.

"They're thinking in terms of this is their occupation. This is what they do for a living," she said.

Martin-Worley told 7NEWS that many people who use credit cards make it easy for others to steal information. She cited restaurants as an example.

"Most restaurants probably don't do background checks on people they hire," she said. "Those are the people we hand our credit cards to."

Martin-Worley also said that data breaches are a cause for concern as is the typical person's response.

She says many people take a wait and see attitude once they learn about a breach.

"If I get some notification of a data breach, I'm not going to wait," she said. "I'm going to cancel my credit card. That's the kind of thing that consumers need to be proactive on."



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