A man is facing a federal charge after allegedly re-encoding multiple gift and credit cards with unauthorized account numbers.
Alexander R. Holcomb, 33, was charged with one count of fraud and related activity in connection with access devices. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.
Holcomb made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court, Davenport, Tuesday. A preliminary hearing and detention hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
At 2:23 a.m. May 9, a Bettendorf police officer pulled over a truck driving on Spruce Hills Drive, according to the federal complaint. Holcomb was the passenger in the truck.
The officer saw Holcomb knock a plastic bag or wrapper off the center console and open the console lid. The officer called for the department’s drug detecting K9.
The K9 alerted to presence of drugs in the vehicle; a search of the truck revealed 3.24 grams of crystal methamphetamine in a clear plastic pouch.
The officer found and searched Holcomb’s backpack, which contained a laptop computer, a credit card encoder, 118 gift cards, 21 credit/debit cards, and a California driver’s license.
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The driver said Holcomb was stealing credit card information and encoding the information on gift and credit cards. The cards are then sold for half the price of whatever amount is put onto the cards. The driver said Holcomb attempted to recruit him into the scheme, but he refused.
On May 14, the officer obtained a search warrant for Holcomb’s laptop; the computer and cards were turned over to the U.S Secret Service.
An analysis found 33 of the 118 gift cards had been re-encoded with unauthorized Shell gift card account numbers. Three other credit cards also had been re-encoded with unauthorized account numbers.
A representative with Shell’s gift card servicing company confirmed the account number printed on the gift card should match the number encoded on it. Two of the three re-encoded cards had been re-encoded with an unauthorized account name that did not match the name on the card.
In July, a special agent with the U.S. Secret Service Chicago field office reported he found more than 1,187 names and personal identifying information on Holcomb’s computer, as well as a software program used to encode identification cards, driver’s licenses, and credit cards.
The agent also found files indicating Holcomb was or wanted to start printing counterfeit Iowa identification cards and a number of files containing sequential “dumps” of several gift card account numbers.
Eleven of the Shell account numbers found on the computer were encoded on the seized gift cards without authorization of Shell, according to the federal complaint.