Three men originally from Nigeria and Ghana have been arrested in Gardendale for their part in a large-scale identity theft scheme.

The men were caught at Walmart, after a monitoring department at Regions Bank detected their activity in real time, and were able to notify Gardendale Police while the men were trying to buy gift cards using fake credit and debit cards that were encoded with stolen account information.

Samuel Bamidele Cole, 25, of Lanham, Md.; Olakunle Oluwaseun Ijiti, 32, of Clinton, Md.; and Antwi K. Boamong, 32, of Springdale, Md. were arrested Friday in their vehicle at the superstore's parking lot on Odum Road.

According to GPD spokesman Lt. Bryan Lynch, Cole and Ijiti were born in Nigeria and Boamong was born in Ghana. Lynch added that arresting officers found more than 25 debit and credit cards that had been re-encoded with stolen account data.

“A re-encoded card is one in which the criminal obtains a legitimate customer’s account information, either through skimming the card or by a network intrusion, and transfers the legitimate information by computer to a blank card, but usually with an alias name on the card,” Lynch said. “Sometimes the suspects will even have fraudulent identification cards to match the alias on the re-encoded card.

“The suspects then take dozens of re-encoded cards from various victim’s accounts with them into a store and purchase as many gifts cards as possible. If a card is rejected, they move on to the next card until they have used all of them,” Lynch added.

Regions Bank's Card Monitoring Group who detected the illegal activity taking place in real time. With the assistance of the bank and the Walmart's loss prevention personnel, the suspects were identified and arrested.

The men were arrested on charges of trafficking in stolen identities, and are lodged in the Jefferson County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond.

Cole and Ijiti have immigration detainers on them from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as a result of similar crimes in the Nashville area, Lynch said.

Detective Chris Clark is leading the investigation, which is continuing; additional charges may be forthcoming.

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