Sheriff Heath Taylor and his investigators stood behind dozens of boxes of seized computer equipment at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
Between $250,000 and $300,000 worth of items including hard drives and projectors were recovered. Here at WTVM, we have about 4% of the combined space on our hard drives as what was intercepted in this shipment.
The items were purchased with stolen identities and shipped by UPS to an address in Fort Mitchell where they were waiting to be picked up by a another professional delivery service with final destinations in foreign countries.
Russell County deputies were tipped off by local law enforcement in Bryson City, North Carolina investigating a case of individual identity theft.
Authorities learned that a medical doctor from Bryson City had two fraudulent purchases on his credit card and the items were being shipped to Fort Mitchell, Alabama.
When Russell County deputies arrived at the address, they found a lot more than they were expecting.
The small order on the doctor's credit card had already come and gone, but a much larger illegally purchased order, obtained by scammers pretending to work for publisher, McGraw Hill, in New York City, was waiting to be picked up.
About 1200 2-terabyte hard drives, scanners and other high-tech equipment, bought online from Office Depot and ASI Computer, arrived at the building moments earlier and they were waiting to be picked up. If deputies arrived even an hour later, they may have missed the whole thing.
Federal investigators tell Russell County Sheriff, Heath Taylor, they believe this fraud was perpetrated by a nationally known crime syndicate.
It's unknown exactly what was planned for this equipment. Authorities speculate that the thieves were planning to sell it on the black market in places like Nigeria where the citizens don't normally have access to these types of items. However, the hard drives may have been intended for more nefarious purposes.
No suspects are in custody yet, but law enforcement agencies have warrants for at least one person and they expect to make arrests in the near future.
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