Arrest reveals fraud scheme at Alabama prison
by Rachel Davis
Oct 19, 2013 | 5437 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Bobby Bull of Bull Building Supply received notice that a credit card purchase in his store had been fraudulent, he was upset. This was a charge back of approximately $1,500 — a significant loss — but he also wanted to know how to protect the store and its customers in the future. He contacted Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair and the Jasper Police Department to report the incident and to ask for tips to stop this from happening again.

When a second notice regarding yet another credit card reached them, those methods meant the store had a driver’s license and phone numbers from the person who made the purchase. Armed with that information, Jimmy Vann of the Jasper Police Department and Gilbert Jean of the district attorney’s office began investigating.

That investigation led them to charge Timothy Richard Robertson, 45, with fraudulent use of a credit card and first-degree theft of property by deceit for both incidents. The investigation into how Robertson allegedly obtained the credit card numbers would take an interesting twist for the investigators. Robertson told them he received the numbers from a family member who was in prison at the Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton, Ala.

According to investigators, the inmates would smuggle cell phones into the prison, call phone numbers of hotel rooms or other random phone numbers and use a ruse to convince the person on the other end of the phone to give them credit card information. They would then send that information to people on the outside who would make purchases, sell the items and then deposit money into the inmates’ prison accounts.

Ventress Correctional Facility is conducting an internal investigation and will likely charge inmates as co-conspirators in the theft ring that may have been operating all over the state.

“You never know what you’ll uncover when you’re investigating these cases, but a theft ring run out of a prison is a new one to me,” Adair said.

The investigators were able to recover a Green Egg grill that was purchased during the first transaction, but the string trimmer and fire pit purchased at the same time were not able to be recovered, neither was the approximately $400 worth of lumber from the second transaction.

Although Bull was glad to have the grill back in pristine condition, he also hoped the swift action of the investigators will deter criminals in the future.

“With this case and shoplifting cases, it’s very important to pursue and make an arrest,” Bull said. “We always prosecute, no matter what the charge. ... Otherwise they will just keep preying on our business and the other businesses around here.”

Robertson is currently in the Walker County Jail on a $45,000 property bond.