Gardendale Police Det. Chris Clark has been recognized by a group of private-sector security professionals for his work in three major cases over the past year and a half.
The Law Enforcement Excellence Award was given to Clark by the Birmingham chapter of the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) during a luncheon Tuesday at the Fraternal Order of Police lodge. He was presented the award plaque by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.
Clark has become a recognized specialist in cases involving financial crimes, such as illegal use of credit and debit cards. It’s a type of crime that affects Gardendale more than many similar suburban cities, because of its numerous retail outlets and its proximity to Interstate 65, one of the nation’s major north-south highways.
“There are criminals who go up and down that road, going from one [store] to another to buy gift cards using phony credit cards,” Gardendale Police spokesman Lt. Bryan Lynch said. “They’ll have all these [stores] on a GPS and go from one to another.”
That’s partly how Clark was able to catch members of an aspiring hip-hop group known as Hood Dynasty, which investigators allege was financing its activities through stolen card identities. The group operated nationally, but concentrated its efforts along I-65 from Birmingham to Huntsville.
The group secured identities from cards through network intrusion into restaurant point-of-sale systems in north Jefferson County, then encoded those identities onto blank cards that they used for purchases.
Clark’s work resulted in the arrest of six members of Hood Dynasty and a total of 164 felony warrants — a record for a single case in Jefferson County, according to the district attorney’s office.
In addition, Clark coordinated action on a large credit card fraud scheme in progress at Wal-Mart, thanks to real-time information from a security department at Regions Bank. That case resulted in the arrest of three suspects who allegedly used fraudulent cards to purchase more than $3,000 in gift cards.
On arrest, Gardendale officers found 25 cards that had been encoded with stolen identities. Two of the suspects were wanted by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement after being charged with similar crimes in Nashville.
Clark also led an investigation in summer 2013 that helped catch two suspects wanted for credit card “skimming,” using devices attached to card readers that extracted account information. Their scheme covered three states, and the two ringleaders faced 28 felony charges that included trafficking in stolen identities.
“He has educated himself in this constantly-changing field and developed a significant network of resources to assist in ongoing investigations involving financial fraud,” Police Chief Mike Walker wrote in his nomination of Clark for the ASIS award.