Craig woman facing felony theft charges in Sephora gift card scheme
Police are accusing a Craig woman of some early Christmas shopping on someone else’s dime.
Stephanie Michelle Hughes, 50, was arrested Tuesday, Nov. 26 on felony charges of identity theft, attempted theft between $2,000 and $5,000, and a misdemeanor charge of theft between $300 and $500.
According to an arrest affidavit compiled by Craig Police Department Officer Grant Laehr, on Nov. 19 a caller from Florida reported someone opened a Discover card on their account under the name Stephanie Hughes and used the card to make a purchase of $500.
Police soon tracked Hughes down at her apartment and advised her what had been reported.
“Stephanie denied knowledge of the fraud,” police said in the affidavit. “I asked if she had received any debit cards or bank cards that did not belong to her. She told me no, and maintained she did not know anything about fraudulently using a bank card.”
Police said they started investigating and asked the victim for more information about when and where the card was used. On Nov. 26, the victim reported to Craig Police “the debit card was used to make a $500 purchase at a grocery store in Craig on October 15, 2019,” according to the affidavit.
Police said they went to the local grocery store and spoke with a female employee who was able to locate the Oct. 15 transaction.
“This transaction occurred at the self checkout stand #3,” police said in the affidavit. “She advised me it was for a “Sephora” (retailer) gift card and was purchased at 5:24 p.m.”
The employee also provided the card number and checked to see if any other purchases had been made using that card number.
“(The employee) was able to check for any other transaction with that number and was able to locate two others that were declined or voided later in the day,” police said in the affidavit. “At 6:22 p.m., a transaction was declined at self-checkout stand #4 for $2,000 (four Sephora gift cards for $500 each). At 6:41 p.m., a transaction was “voided” at the customer service desk, for $1,000 (2 Sephora gift cards for $500 each.)”
It wasn’t long before police pulled surveillance video from Oct. 15 and, though it was hard to tell who the woman was, at least one store employee recognized the woman as Hughes, “a previous frequent customer,” according to the affidavit.
“We also reviewed the video from the customer service desk,” police said in the affidavit. “I identified the person at the customer service desk to be the same that used the self check out based on their clothing. I could now identify the female party as Stephanie Hughes, the same party I spoke with the prior week. I recognized the shirt she was wearing in the video as being the same one she was wearing when I contacted her on November 19, 2019.”
Police said upon further investigation, employees advised them Hughes was “likely asked to fill out a gift card log, which is common for purchases in these amounts,” meaning the first few transactions may have voided “likely because Stephanie didn’t want to sign her name to the log,” the affidavit said.
Police went back to Hughes’ apartment to speak with her again about the alleged fraud and Hughes “again denied any knowledge of fraudulent use of any bank cards,” police said in the affidavit. “She even stated she thought someone else may have used her name to open the account.”
When police informed Hughes of the results of their investigation at the local grocery store, the affidavit said “Stephanie’s story began to change and she stated she was beginning to remember certain details.”
It was then Hughes admitted to using the card.
“She admitted to using the bank card, knowing it belonged to someone else, was “wrong” to do,” police said in the affidavit. “Stephanie told me she realized it was wrong a day or two after making the purchase on Oct. 15.”
According to the affidavit, Hughes told police she took the purchased gift card to another grocery store in Craig and used it there “at the end of October or early November.”
Hughes was booked into the Moffat County Jail Tuesday, Nov. 26 and posted bond and was released that same day. No information was available Tuesday regarding the bond amount.