RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - Two Florida men have been sentenced to federal prison for running a fraud scheme aimed at Belk department stores in North and South Carolina.
Gustavo De Almeida, 35, and Henrique De Almeida, 30, both from Coral Springs Fla., were each sentenced to 30-month prison sentences and three years probation after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
They were also ordered to pay $54,806 in restitution.
In Dec. 2018, security personnel for Belk stores became aware of a scheme where two men would enter a Belk location in North or South Carolina and purchase gift cards in $300 increments using credit card numbers associated with foreign bank accounts. The men would present identification in the form of passports from Brazil or Portugal.
The men would then travel to another Belk location and use the gift cards to buy merchandise, including computer gaming equipment and Nest cameras.
On Dec. 10, 2018, Belk security in Charlotte issued a “be on the lookout” alert to other stores for the two men.
Eight days later, the two men were spotted by security at the Belk store in Independence Mall in Wilmington, purchasing gift cards and several Nest cameras. Security personnel at the store contacted their counterparts at the Mayfaire location, warning that the suspects were in the area.
One of the suspects then went to the Mayfaire location where they loaded a cart full of Nest products. A store manager spoke to one of the suspects during checkout, where he claimed he was planning to sell the products in Brazil due to a large markup.
After the transaction, Belk security personnel, who already contacted the Wilmington Police Department, stopped both men outside of the store.
Wilmington police arrived and questioned the men who were found to be in possession of counterfeit identification cards. Additionally, a search of their vehicle yielded large quantities of merchandise and recipients related to know prior purchases by the suspects.
Evidence was also gathered that indicated that the men were shipping the merchandise to their home in Coral Springs, Fla. A search of the home netted $17,000 in money, several suspected counterfeit passports, and numerous Belk merchandise.
The brothers were indicted in Dec. 2018 and both pled guilty on Sept. 8, 2019.