Police Break Ring of Suspected Bank-Scammers

Apr. 19--FERNDALE -- Two men and two women arrested at a local bank may be linked to a fraudulent credit card scheme that has been reported in nine states, Police Lt. Travis Glass said Wednesday.

The arrests occurred Tuesday at Peoples Bank, 1750 La Bounty Drive, after bank employees alerted police that one of the four was attempting to get a cash advance amounting to thousands of dollars on a suspicious credit card. Bank employees were able to stall the man until police arrived.

Glass said the suspect presented a teller with a Visabranded debit card, complete with hologram, and requested a cash advance.

When the computer verification system rejected the card, the suspect asked to call the card issuer, but apparently called a co-conspirator who then instructed the bank employee how to do a manual override to authorize issuance of the cash.

Chimma Ray, 30, of Oakland, Calif., was arrested inside the bank. The other three were arrested in a vehicle in the bank parking lot. They were identified as Chamieka Deshon Dauzat, 25, of Gardena, Calif.; Luther Riley, 61, of Sacramento, Calif.; and Rindi Damisi Martin, 31, of Los Angeles.

All four were booked into Whatcom County Jail on suspicion of first-degree theft.

Earlier in the day, employees at another local bank didn't catch on in time, and turned over $5,000 in cash, Glass said. The money has not been recovered, and Glass said police are still looking for other accomplices.

Two other Ferndale banks reported similar encounters, and a day earlier, at least one similar ploy was attempted unsuccessfully at a bank in Bellingham, Glass said.

Earlier in April, police in Keizer, Ore., arrested two Sacramento men in connection with what Glass said was a near-identical credit card scheme.

Since the arrests, Glass said he has been in communication with other police departments and with a bank security agency that have told him that suspects in similar crimes have succeeded in getting about $370,000 from banks in nine states. Cards used in the thefts appear to be counterfeited, not stolen.

"There are just identical scams in multiple locations," Glass said.

Glass said the suspects had recently flown into Sea-Tac International Airport, where they rented the two vehicles they were using in Ferndale. Their intended destination had apparently been in Canada, but they were turned back at the border before they showed up in Ferndale, Glass said.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Bellingham Herald, Wash. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.