An Atlanta couple was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Dec. 12, almost three years after police discovered a sophisticated credit card lab in the basement of their home. Law enforcement found more than 97,000 unique credit and debit card numbers, more than 800 fake credit cards (they found more, which were not complete), about 100 fake IDs, $199,000 in cash, jewelry worth more than $380,000 and gift cards valued at more than $43,000, according to a news release from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia.
The scale of this two-person operation isn’t even the most remarkable part of the story. Sure, it’s pretty crazy to think two people were manufacturing hundreds, possibly thousands, of fake credit cards in their basement, but the amazing thing is the police just stumbled into this lab. It all started with a 911 call.
Officers responded to a report of an intruder at the home of Paul L. Black and Ednecdia Sutina Johnson the morning of Dec. 21, 2011, according to the news release, which is based on court information. The police reportedly found a man in the driveway, with a gun injury to his head. The front door was kicked in, and a sawed-off shotgun lay in the blood-spattered foyer. Officers found blood and bullet holes throughout the house.
“The officers moved to the basement, where they discovered a trail of blood leading to a locked door that had blood smeared on its handle,” the release says. “Officers forced the door open and when they entered the room they found a highly sophisticated credit card lab that contained credit card presses, computers, printers, card embossers, stacks of blank credit cards and partially completed cards, cash, and two handguns.”
Black and Johnson pleaded guilty March 18, 2014, to access device fraud, possession of device-making equipment, possession of false identification documents and possession of a document-making implement.
It’s unclear how the couple attained the credit and debit card numbers, but such data is fairly easy to come by online. Regular data breaches keep the black markets well-stocked with stolen card numbers.
Credit card fraud is a common occurrence, but you can minimize the damage you might experience if your information is stolen by regularly monitoring your accounts and checking your credit. Setting up transactional alerts or reviewing your account activity daily are among the easiest strategies for spotting and stopping fraud. You can also look at your credit scores for signs of fraud (like a sudden drop in score), and you can get two of your scores for free every 30 days on Credit.com.
More on Identity Theft:
- Identity Theft: What You Need to Know
- How Do I Dispute an Error on My Credit Report?
- 3 Dumb Things You Can Do With Email