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Metro Detroit gas station owner allegedly used $3.5M in stolen gift cards to buy Sam's Club items

Posted: 1:38 PM, Jun 28, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-28 17:41:39-04
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(WXYZ) — An owner of seven gas stations in the metro Detroit area allegedly used stolen gift cards to buy millions of dollars worth of items from Sam's Club from March 2014 to February 2016.

According to an indictment, the stolen items would then be resold at gas stations.

Authorities say Tarek Bazzi and his associates allegedly purchased merchandise from different area Sam's Clubs in the amount of approximately $4,573,428, of which $3,569,424 were paid for by fraudulently obtained gift cards.

M&A Petro, located on 8 Mile Road in Detroit and owned by Bazzi, was reportedly a known fence for stolen goods. Allegedly, multiple individuals had sold countless fraudulently obtained merchandise to the location for several years.

According to officials, the gift cards were typically obtained from different stores using stolen credit cards and credit card numbers.

On January 26, 2016, a Task Force CI entered M&A Petro for the purpose of selling gift cards represented as being fraudulently obtained. The CI was in possession of cards with a face value of $2,500.

Bazzi allegedly met directly with the CI in the store and gave $1,500 cash for the cards. The CI then asked Bazzi what he could bring in to make money, and Bazzi reportedly said he wanted Walmart gift cards and cigarettes, stating the cigarettes did not need to be from Michigan.

After the CI left, Bazzi drove to the Sam's Club located in Southfield to buy a large amount of goods, according to the criminal complaint.

A federal investigation revealed that Bazzi owned several convenience stores in the area registered either in his name or the name of an immediate family member:

  • B&B Mini Mart in Detroit was registered in the name of Bazzi's wife. Investigators say Bazzi, his wife, family and associates purchased $96,722 in Sam's Club products under the business account. Of those purchases, $85,905 were reportedly paid for with fraudulently obtained gift cards.
  • Woodbridge Gas located on Grand River in Detroit was registered in the name of Bazzi's sister. Investigators say $1,211,935 in Sam's Club products were purchased under the business account. Of those purchases, $701,769 were reportedly paid for with fraudulently obtained gift cards.
  • Fort & King BP in Riverview was registered in the name of Bazzi's wife. Investigators say $934,890 in Sam's Club products were purchased under the business account. Of those purchases, $720,962 were reportedly paid for with fraudulently obtained gift cards.
  • Moe & Gas in Warren was registered in the name of Bazzi's sister. Investigators say $361,998 in Sam's Club products were purchased under the business account. Of those purchases, $247,839 were reportedly paid for with fraudulently obtained gift cards.
  • H&M Fuel Mart in Ypsilanti was registered in the name of Bazzi's sister. Investigators say $978,022 in Sam's Club products were purchased under the business account. Of those purchases, $822,927 were reportedly paid for with fraudulently obtained gift cards.
  • Pontiac Petro in Pontiac was registered in the name of Bazzi's sister. Investigators say $22,832 in Sam's Club products were purchased under the business account. Of those purchases, $9,683 were reportedly paid for with fraudulently obtained gift cards.

Investigators say that in some instances, Bazzi allegedly swiped the fraudulently obtained gift cards using the credit card terminal at one or more of his businesses in order to create a fake gas purchase transaction. This activity was intended to mislead the credit card processing company and induce it to credit Bazzi's account in the corresponding claimed "gas purchase," turning a gift card into cash.

He also allegedly caused a wire transmission in interstate commerce every time he or one of his associated used a fraudulent gift card at Sam's Club stores or gas stations. He also reportedly caused a wire transmission whenever he communicated about the scheme via text messages or phone calls.

Bazzi has been charged with one count of wire fraud and two counts of access device fraud. He iss accused of poessessing, using or trafficking more than 15 unauthorized access devices. and is also accused of receiving payment or items of value equal to or greater than $1,000 through an unauthorized access device.