The grandson of a former Daytona Beach mayor was one of 18 people arrested in connection with a major gift card and shoplifting scheme targeting big-box stores around Central Florida, law enforcement officials announced Monday.
The scheme netted $2 million in a nine-month period and sometimes pressed homeless people into shoplifting duty or into making illegal returns, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office said.
"These people... their job is stealing and pawning these cards — that's their occupation," Sheriff Ben Johnson said at a news conference with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announcing the arrests.
The defendants allegedly shoplifted merchandise from big-name stores such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, Toys R Us and Wal-Mart, and then returned items for store credit on gift cards. The fraudulent gift cards were then sold at Cash For Gift Cards stores in Deltona and Daytona Beach, the Florida Attorney General's office said in a news release. The Cash For Gift Cards stores later sold them in bulk to online companies.
The businesses bought more than 16,000 gift cards over eight months and made more than $100,000 per month, the Sheriff's Office said.
The Cash For Gift Cards stores are owned by father-son duo Dale Holcombe, 52, of Daytona and James Holcombe, 27, of Ormond Beach who face racketering and conspiracy charges.
"They very well knew that they were dealing in stolen property," Johnson said.
One of the defendants, Paul Ronald Carpenella Jr., 23, of Edgewater, is the grandson of a former Daytona Beach mayor. He faces three counts of dealing in stolen property. The defendants are from Volusia, Seminole and Putnam counties.
Law enforcement officials expect to make more arrests in the racketeering investigation, they said.
"To the rest of the guys out here who haven't been arrested, get ready, because you're going to the county jail," Bondi said.
Father-and-son duo Dale Holcombe and James Holcombe own Cash For Gift Cards stores in Deltona and Daytona Beach. (Brittany Jones, Staff)