Three men charged in identity theft crime spree

A Bay Area trio is accused of stopping in Medford during a long crime spree involving stolen credit card numbers and Nordstrom stores, Medford police said.

Detectives have spent the past several months piecing together evidence from a large swath of crimes linked to three Oakland men who somehow got their hands on people's credit card numbers and parlayed the information into a lucrative scam, Medford police Sgt. Scott Clausen said.

Tyrrell Charles Blackshire, 21, Herbert Eugene Johnson, 30, and Joseph Edward Allen, 27, face multiple felony identity theft and theft charges.

Police believe the trio started in California and cruised up and down Interstate 5 to Portland. At these stops they allegedly would purchase Nordstrom gift cards from grocery outlets using stolen credit card information, then transfer money from the credit cards to the gift cards.

At Nordstrom, they would buy merchandise and then drive to another Nordstrom outlet and return it for cash, Clausen said.

"They would spend days just driving up and down the interstate," Clausen said. "Medford doesn't have a Nordstrom, but they ended up here at local Safeway and Albertsons stores."

They entered a Safeway on March 4 and attempted to purchase Nordstrom gift cards, which are often sold near checkout lanes.

Surveillance video showed them attempting to swipe multiple cards to pay for the gift cards.

"When one card didn't work, they would just pull out another and swipe it," Clausen said. "It caught the attention of a Safeway employee."

Safeway officials phoned Medford police after the trio left and they were soon arrested outside an Albertsons store.

"We were waiting for them," Clausen said.

Detectives originally lodged numerous felony counts against them, but withdrew the charges briefly in an attempt to build a better case, Clausen said.

"We sometimes do that to ensure we get the strongest case we can get," Clausen said.

Each faces three counts of aggravated identity theft, 14 counts of identity theft and two counts of first-degree theft.Blackshire was indicted in Jackson County Circuit Court on Sept. 16 on these charges. Johnson and Allen appear on the charges at a later date.

Clausen did not speculate on the exact amount the trio is accused of scamming from the credit accounts, but the aggravated identity theft charge requires a crime of at least $10,000 in value.

Detectives would like to know how they attained the credit card information used in the spree.

"Sometimes organized crime such as a Russian mob sells credit card information," Clausen said. "Or it could be they have a friend who works at a restaurant who wrote down people's credit card information and sold it to them. It's hard to know."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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