HOUSTON – Houston Police Department investigators say a Houston couple was living in luxury with high-end cars and an upscale apartment, paid for by taxpayers.
Each month, HPD said its Financial Crimes Unit receives thousands of cases, but Sgt. Darren Schlosser said it’s not too often that investigators stumble across a case like this.
"It was heads up by a clerk that broke this case wide open," Schlosser said.
The clerk worked at the Apple store, located inside Bay Brook Mall, and noticed a customer trying to use stolen credit-card information to purchase two computers.
The tip led to the arrest of Rogelio Salazar and his common-law-wife, Crystal Pena.
"These people lived better than most. When you walked into their living room, there were Apple products, and Apple computers. They had big-screen televisions in every room, Play Station 3s, and they had new nice furniture," Schlosser said.
Investigators checked out Pena’s closet and found designer shoes and designer clothes hanging from the racks.
"When I walked into the closet, I would imagine most women would have fainted," Schlosser said.
Police believe all of it, including thousands of dollars worth of designer purses, was purchased fraudulently. Police said the couple, who has three kids, didn’t have jobs.
What really ticked off investigators, and will likely make you mad, is that the couple lives in an upscale apartment complex in southeast Houston. Their rent is allegedly $65. HPD said it’s still investigating, but it appears the couple is getting government assistance to pay their bills.
HPD believes Salazar was able to buy credit-card numbers from other crooks over the Internet, and that he is also familiar with sophisticated skimming devices placed inside gasoline pumps to steal card information.
"The new devices that they are putting in there will not only capture the credit information, but transmit that via a cellular network via a text message or email," said Schlosser.
So what are consumers supposed to do? Police said you should control the damage as best as possible. Keep checking your accounts and credit reports.
While we were at HPD, undercover investigators were on their way to the D.A.’s office, hoping to get more search warrants that would allow them to look inside all the suspects’ computers. They are hoping to find information on who the victims are, so they can be notified.
Anyone with any additional information on these two suspects is urged to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.