January 19, 2017  |  01:28 pm

A Slidell couple’s fraudulent credit card / identity theft operation has been shut down by the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.

An investigation, led by the STPSO Financial Crimes Unit, has resulted in 115 counterfeit credit cards, equipment used to make credit cards, and more than $25,000 worth of high-end shoes being seized.

Roland Celestine (DOB: 9/30/1992) and Gariuan Hampton (DOB: 8/28/1994), both of 726 Joseph Street, Slidell, LA, were arrested last week for LRS 14:67.4 Anti-skimming Act, LRS 14:71.1 Bank Fraud, LRS 14:67.16 Identity Theft, and LRS 14:72.2 Monetary Instrument Abuse.

Detectives executed a search warrant at the Joseph Street residence and located counterfeit credit cards, credit card skimmers, electronic credit card encoding equipment, a credit card embossing machine, multiple computers, and more than 160 pairs of shoes, which were purchased with the fraudulent credit cards.

Celestine and Hampton would first steal credit card numbers by utilizing skimming devices, and/or by purchasing stolen identities from the “dark web”. The couple would then take pre-paid gift cards, reprogram the magnetic strip with the fraudulent credit card information, and would then take it a step further by using their credit card embossing machine (to make the card look legitimate) and emboss their actual names on the credit cards. The duo would then use the cards to make fraudulent purchases at local retail stores.

A majority of the purchases made were high-end shoes, which detectives estimate to be worth over $25,000. In today’s economy, high-end/collectible shoes are often used as currency amongst the young adults because they are easily liquidated for cash, traded, and/or used as collateral.

The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office Financial Crimes Unit will continue its investigation, as part of the Louisiana Financial Crimes Task Force, in order to identify the sources of the compromised card numbers. Authorities are also working to identify the actual victims whose credit card information was stolen.