LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — A newly-formed team to investigate organized retail crime in Michigan has arrested three individuals who were allegedly involved in $4 million worth of fraudulent food stamp purchases from Detroit-area Sam’s Clubs, Attorney General Dana Nessel said.
“It was discovered that a majority of the nearly 8,000 EBT cardholders whose accounts were fraudulently compromised reside in the state of California,” Nessel said at a Tuesday morning conference. “To date, approximately $4 million worth of purchases have been linked to the fraudulent use of EBT cards (food stamps) at Detroit-area Sam’s Club locations.”
The FORCE Team had been investigating since last year, Nessel said. After the team, working with several other agencies, executed search warrants in eight different locations Wednesday, three people were arrested.
They were arraigned Friday on felony charges such as conducting a criminal enterprise and multiple counts of food stamp fraud, according to Nessel.
Nessel named them as 39-year-old Travis Newby of Detroit, 23-year-old Derriun Williams of Detroit and 47-year-old Vanessa Williams of Highland Park.
The investigation is ongoing. “We fully anticipate naming new defendants as this investigation continues,” Nessel said.
Nessel said Michigan’s new FORCE Team, which comprises members of the Department of Attorney General and Michigan State Police, is the first of its kind in the U.S.
“The FORCE Team was formed by my office to focus on criminal organizations that target retailers by stealing product that eventually is repackaged and sent back into into commerce for profit,” Nessel said.
The team will partner with law enforcement and businesses across the state.
“Let today’s announcement serve as a warning for anyone attempting to commit these crimes in Michigan,” Nessel said.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled a suspect’s name. The spelling has been updated. We regret the error.