Another Home Depot employee charged in massive fraud scheme, allegedly issued $281,000 in bogus gift cards

CHICAGO — Prosecutors on Tuesday accused a fifth Home Depot employee of participating in a massive gift card fraud scheme that cost the retailer at least $6 million in losses.

Rosa Reynoso-Rodriguez, 34, is charged with participating in a continuing financial crime enterprise and theft of $100,000 to $500,000.

Like two of the previously charged employees, Reynoso-Rodriguez worked at the 2570 North Elston location. Prosecutors said she issued $900 gift cards 313 times, for a total of $281,700.

We first told you about the racket in May. Officials said Home Depot stores in the city were defrauded by scammers who collected $900 credits more than 6,000 times for a single purchase made three years ago.

The scam began in March 2020 when someone made a $6,000 purchase at the 2570 North Elston location. Days later, someone returned to the store and said the purchase was for a tax-exempt church. A store employee accepted the tax-exempt documents and issued the representative a $900 gift card for the tax value.

The same receipt was used for over three years to generate more than 6,000 gift cards, mostly for $900 each.

Cashiers scanned the receipt bar code from an accomplice’s phone each time, manually entered the tax exemption information, and then cut a gift card for the difference. Some cashiers issued multiple gift cards for the same purchase in one sitting. And some cashiers even had a copy of the receipt stored on their personal phones so they could issue gift cards by themselves.

Rosa Reynoso-Rodriguez | Google; Chicago Police Department

On Tuesday, prosecutors said Reynoso-Rodriguez issued $49,500 worth of $900 gift cards between May 3 and May 10 alone.

Last Thursday, prosecutors accused Tyler Clark, 25, of being involved in the scam while working as a cashier at the company’s 4555 South Western location. Prosecutors said Clark used his employee credentials to issue $900 gift cards for the same 2020 purchase on 971 occasions, costing the company $873,900.

Between May 1 and May 11, when investigators were actively investigating the scam, he issued $108,900 worth of $900 gift cards using the receipt, officials said.

Officials said the scam started slowly, with unknown persons using the receipt to get $900 gift cards 15 times in 2020. In 2021, the receipt was used to generate gift cards 33 times.

Last year, 1,372 gift cards were issued for $900 in “tax credits” on the same purchase.

In the first round of charges in May, prosecutors said Lamont Thompson, 49, was one of the “customers” who presented the three-year-old receipt to receive $900 in gift cards after Home Depot alerted Chicago police on May 5. Thompson allegedly received ten gift cards worth $9,000 on May 10, another 39 cards worth $35,100 during two sessions on May 12, and three cards worth $2,700 on May 15.

When police arrested Thompson, he had 33 Home Depot gift cards worth $29,700 on him, prosecutors said. He is charged with four counts of felony retail theft and operating a continuing financial crime enterprise.

Two Home Depot cashiers, Christiana Westbrooks, 38, and Sharon Dwyer, 46, were charged with theft in May. Each had been working for the company for about two years.

Prosecutors said Westrooks used her unique teller code to issue $900 gift cards on the same receipt more than 1,000 times since January 1. She was carrying $2,980 in cash when police arrested her, officials said. She allegedly admitted to receiving $100 for every gift card she issued.

Dwyer allegedly issued more than 1,500 of the cards worth a total of $1.3 million since January 1. Prosecutors said Dwyer received $30 for every gift card she issued during the scam. In addition to giving cards to scammers who posed as customers, Dwyer is accused of scanning an image of the 2020 receipt from her phone and issuing $900 gift cards to herself. She was carrying $4,420 in cash when cops arrested her.

Officials did not explain how the fraudulently issued gift cards were converted to cash, nor did they say if additional arrests were expected. Exactly how the scheme was able to operate for three years, generating thousands of $900 gift cards from a single $6,000 receipt, is unclear.

About CWBChicago 6555 Articles
CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is news@cwbchicago.com