WILLIAMSBURG — Two downstate residents face charges in Grand Traverse County for a credit card scheme that could stretch across the Midwest.
Khafra C. Chapple, 26, of Detroit, and Deandre P. Halimon, 25, of Taylor, were arraigned Wednesday at the 86th District Court on criminal enterprise charges after they were arrested Aug. 18 for using fraudulent gift cards to purchase items at the Meijer in Williamsburg.
Karlyn Crotty, investigations coordinator of the Meijer Remote Operations Center, told law enforcement that Meijer has experienced “an overwhelming number of cases” in Michigan where debit gift cards are encoded with numbers belonging to actual Meijer credit card accounts and those gift cards are then used to fraudulently purchase items on those credit card accounts.
Kit Tholen, Grand Traverse County deputy civil counsel, said more people than just Chapple and Halimon are involved in the scheme and that it involves “a large number of Meijers around the state and even in other states in the Midwest.”
About half of Meijer’s stores are located in Michigan, with the other half in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Tholen said he expects to have an organizational report on the incident from Meijer next week.
The complaint report filed with the 86th District Court shows Chapple made 13 attempts to purchase items on seven different fraudulent cards — two of which worked — on Aug 18. Records also show Halimon tried five different fraudulent cards — one of which worked — on two separate transactions. Crotty also reported all of the cards Chapple and Halimon used were fraudulent and were tied to actual Meijer credit card accounts.
Halimon was pulled over on M-72 after leaving the Meijer, and a search found 56 debit gift cards — 10 of which were encoded with numbers linked to Meijer credit card accounts. Crotty also told law enforcement the items found Halimon’s truck were bought using fraudulent cards.
Despite numerous phone calls and emails to several Meijer officials for information about how many Meijer credit card accounts were compromised and what other stores possibly were defrauded, Meijer Senior Director of Communications Frank Guglielmi said in an email, “We do not comment on security issues.”
A representative from Comenity, the bank that supports the Meijer credit card accounts, also declined to provide any specifics on customers and stores affected.
Both organizations, however, said cardmembers will not be held liable for fraudulent charges once credit card fraud has been identified and confirmed.
Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Lt. Brian Giddis said they are not sure how long Chapple and Halimon have been running this scam, but he said he does not believe this was the first time.
“It’s not like they thought it up and did it and then got caught right away. They’ve been doing it, and then Meijer caught on to them and developed a way to catch them,” Giddis said. “I’m sure that they didn’t come right to Traverse City and do this. I’m sure they started somewhere else and went from Meijer store to Meijer store to Meijer store. It’s more than just the Traverse City Meijer affected.”
Giddis said he does not know how many accounts are involved, but he added it is “too many to count” at this point.
Chapple and Halimon each face up to 20 years in prison and $100,000 in fines. Chapple could face life in prison if convicted because of three prior felony convictions in 2016 for possession of 15 or more counterfeit access devices, possession of access device making equipment and two counts of aggravated identity theft. Halimon faces an additional two years in prison for lying to a peace officer. Halimon told law enforcement he never entered the Williamsburg Meijer, but video surveillance showed him inside the store.
Probable cause conferences for Chapple and Halimon are set for 9 a.m. on Sept. 4 at the 86th District Courthouse.