CINCINNATI — A routine traffic stop in Cincinnati in 2017 unraveled a nationwide scheme to defraud Home Depot by stealing customer credit card numbers, buying expensive power tools and thermostats, and fencing the goods at a loss of at least $168,585.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black rendered judgment on one of the men charged in the case Friday, sentencing 34-year-old Marc Anslaye Clermont to 20 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
The other man involved in the scheme, 35-year-old Jordan Zack St. Louis, pleaded guilty and is in the Butler County jail awaiting sentencing.
The two men were a small part of a multi-state conspiracy to defraud the home improvement store giant by taking advantage of a customer loyalty program, Pro Xtra, that allows customers to link credit cards to their phone numbers.
“Several uncharged conspirators,” gave stolen credit card numbers to Clermont and St. Louis to buy expensive items at Home Depot stores that would later be fenced. The two men were given a cut of the illegal profits, according to court documents.
They “attempted to defraud at least 100 Home Depot stores in at least nine states, eventually being caught in Ohio when law enforcement got lucky,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Gaffney wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies stopped a Dodge Durango driven by St. Louis for speeding and traffic violations on June 5, 2017.
St. Louis did not have a driver’s license, and deputies said Clermont had an open can of beer and marijuana residue on his shirt. A drug-sniffing dog indicated there was a drug odor coming from the car, according to the criminal complaint.
When deputies searched the SUV they discovered 52 home thermostats and power tools valued at $12,754. They also found a red binder outlining which Home Depot stores in Ohio, Indiana, Texas and Louisiana were a “good hit,” according to the complaint.
One of the addresses listed in the binder as a “good hit” was a Home Depot store in Harrison. Store surveillance video showed a man who resembles Clermont pushing a cart to the register of the store on June 4, 2017, according to the complaint.
Their buying spree began in March 2017, with the men visiting more than 100 Home Depot stores across the country and buying $168,585 worth of high-end merchandise before deputies stopped them in June. However, officials believe Clermont and St. Louis had actually stolen far more over time, according to court documents.
“That interstate crime spree caused real loss to a number of victims," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. "While Home Depot absorbed all the financial loss from the scheme, Home Depot was not the only victim.”
At least 50 people had their credit cards compromised, enduring logistical complications and “the emotional cost of that violation and vulnerability,” Gaffney wrote.
The Home Depot security team gathered surveillance footage, analyzed data and worked with the U.S. Secret Service on the case.
Black ordered Clermont to pay restitution to Home Depot. He will likely also order St. Louis to do the same. No sentencing date has been set.
“The parties spent a good deal of time discussing Mr. St. Louis’ role in this offense in terms of the bigger picture of the case, and the government agreed that it would not oppose a sentence of three years incarceration,” Gaffney wrote in a sentencing memorandum.