GREENHILLS, Ohio -- Greenhills police are warning business owners to be careful how they handle large credit card transactions after one local store got hit for $30,000 in losses, and the amount could end up being even more.
Several people wanted to charge more than $5,000 to a credit card for merchandise at Bargains and Buyouts Monday. But they couldn't use the chip because the amount was too large, so the supposed customers called for an authorization code for the transaction.
Employees at the store got suspicious about some credit cards that were presented for payment and called police. Greenhills Police Chief Neil Ferdelman said the responding officer found the people were "acting suspiciously at the checkout register."
Officer Zach Clark's attention was drawn to the store's loading dock as he arrived, according to Ferdelman.
"He noticed that two U-Haul trucks were loading up on the side of the business," Ferdelman said.
The officer quickly decided that he had to go into "surveillance mode" right away. He came back to the police station and got permission from his supervisor to take an unmarked vehicle. Then he followed the people into Cincinnati.
One of the trucks turned onto the Norwood Lateral. Springfield Township police stopped that truck. Another headed to Race Street in Over-the-Rhine, where its driver met up with a third truck.
Springfield Township police are holding three U-Haul vehicles for Greenhills while warrants are obtained to search them.
"We already know that the loss is going to be right at $30,000," Ferdelman said. "We expect that to go much higher."
That's just the Greenhills store. There's another Bargains and Buyouts in Westwood that got hit for $20,000 in the scheme, and possibly more.
"We hope that that's going to lead to even additional stolen merchandise and the recovery of it," Ferdelman said.
Police said crooks bought large amounts of merchandise with cards and then schemed to override bank safety guidelines. Investigators are piecing together how they did it.
"We believe that these suspects were going into businesses with credit cards that they had bought that had not been loaded with any value on them," Ferdelman said.
Businesses shouldn't "bend the rules" if a credit card isn't going through, Ferdelman warned.
"It's best to have the potential buyer of the merchandise wait a few days rather than risk losing thousands and thousands of dollars," he said.
No arrests have been made yet. Ferdelman said the case could get bigger as investigators dig into the details.