TRENTON –Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a Hudson County man was sentenced to prison today in connection with a fraud scheme in which he used phony credit and debit cards – manufactured with stolen account information – to buy gift cards worth over $76,000.
Clifford Dominique, 25, of Jersey City, N.J., was sentenced today to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Paul M. DePascale in Hudson County. He pleaded guilty on Nov. 13, 2017 to second-degree theft by deception. He was ordered to pay restitution of $58,000 to Ahold USA, Inc., which operates Stop & Shop supermarkets and was the primary victim of the fraud scheme. A co-defendant, Ialicia C. Epps, 29, of Jersey City, N.J., was sentenced today by Judge DePascale to two years of probation. She was ordered to pay $4,500 in restitution. She pleaded guilty to theft by deception on Feb. 15, 2017.
Deputy Attorney General Thomas Clark prosecuted Dominique and Epps and handled the sentencing hearings for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau. They were charged in an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice and the Bayonne Police Department. The investigation began with a referral from Ahold USA, Inc., which conducted an internal investigation.
The state’s investigation revealed that Dominique had numerous phony credit and debit cards that were illegally manufactured using stolen account information from legitimate credit and debit cards issued by financial institutions in various countries, including Canada, Poland, Lebanon and Macedonia. In 2015, Dominique approached Epps, who was a cashier at the Stop & Shop in Bayonne, N.J., and offered to pay her if she would assist him in making purchases at the store using the phony credit and debit cards. Between August and November 2015, Dominique went to the Stop & Shop in Bayonne on various dates and presented the phony credit and debit cards to Epps to process 182 fraudulent transactions totaling approximately $76,790. Dominique primarily purchased “open loop” gift cards, which are gift cards that can be used to make purchases anywhere. Most of the gift cards were for the maximum amount permitted, $500.
Dominique recruited Epps so he could make the purchases without arousing suspicion and could evade the dollar limit stores typically place on credit and debit transactions by a customer.
“Dominique knew that stolen credit cards usually are shut down soon after they are first used, so he rapidly used each phony credit card to buy multiple gift cards in high denominations, thereby stealing over $76,000,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Phony plastic is a growing problem, with criminals, including gang members, buying stolen credit card information on the dark web and manufacturing fake cards. This sentence sends a strong message that we will aggressively prosecute this type of fraud.”
“While most people view gift cards as a perfect gift when they don’t know what to give, criminals who engage in credit card fraud view them as a perfect way to steal and launder money,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We’ll continue to work with our law enforcement partners, retailers and financial institutions to foil these schemes and send the perpetrators to prison.”
Attorney General Grewal commended Deputy Attorney General Clark and Detective Katelyn Prata, who handled the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau, and Detective Keith Striffolino of the Bayonne Police Department. Attorney General Grewal also thanked Ahold USA, Inc., and its employee Investigations Specialist Michael S. Murphy for their valuable assistance.