Owner of 7 Metro Detroit gas stations resells $3.5M in Sam's Club products bought with stolen cards

Tarek Bazzi accused in Metro Detroit credit card fraud scheme

Sam's Club (WDIV)

DETROIT - The owner of seven gas stations in Detroit, Warren and Oakland and Washtenaw counties is accused of putting the businesses in his and family members' names and using them to sell items from Sam's Club in Southfield that were bought with stolen gift cards, according to authorities.

Tarek Bazzi is accused of purchasing more than $3.5 million worth of items with stolen gift cards between March 2014 and February 2016, court records show.

Undercover investigators sell cards to Bazzi

Members of the Southeast Michigan Financial Crimes Task Force learned that M&A Petro, on Eight Mile Road in Detroit, was known for selling stolen goods, officials said.

Multiple people had sold fraudulently obtained merchandise to the location for years under Bazzi's ownership, police said.

Between March 2014 and February 2016, Bazzi, his family members and associates bought $1,288,130 worth of items from Sam's Club stores under the business account of M&A Petro, according to court records.

Of those purchases, $1,177,575 was bought with fraudulently obtained gift cards sold to Bazzi and his associates below face value, officials said.

The gift cards were typically acquired by others from different stores using stolen credit cards and credit card numbers, according to authorities.

On Jan. 26, 2016, an undercover member of the task force walked into M&A Petro to sell gift cards worth $2,500 that were represented as being stolen, officials said.

The undercover investigator spoke with a store employee and then met directly with Bazzi in an aisle in the middle of the store, officials said.

He told Bazzi that he had a cousin working at a distribution center in Tennessee and could get hundreds of phones. The conversation was secretly recorded.

"The phones, I don't mess with," Bazzi said. "I mess with the cards. I don't mess with the phones so much."

"No phones?" the investigator asked.

"I don't mess with them," Bazzi said.

"Just cards only?" the investigator said. "OK. I'm just wondering."

"How much do you want for the cards?" Bazzi asked. "How much you want for them? $2,500, how much you want?"

"Give me $1,500," the investigator said. "That's $1,000 your way."

Officials said Bazzi walked behind the counter of the store and got $1,500 in cash from a safe to pay for the cards.

The investigator asked Bazzi what he could bring in to make some money. Bazzi said he wanted Walmart gift cards and cigarettes, and the two negotiated a price of $40 per carton, according to authorities. Bazzi told him the cigarettes didn't need to be from Michigan, court records show.

After the investigator left the gas station, Bazzi drove to the Sam's Club at 22500 Eight Mile Road in Southfield and used the cards to buy a large amount of goods, police said. He unloaded the items at M&A Petro, officials said.

On Feb. 10, 2016, an undercover member of the task force made contact with Bazzi at M&A Petro and sold him cards worth $2,000 for $1,300, authorities said.

After the investigator left the gas station, Bazzi went to the same Southfield Sam's Club store, used the cards to buy goods and unloaded the items at M&A Petro, court records show.

Metro Detroit stores registered to family members

Investigators learned Bazzi owned several gas station convenience stores in the area registered in his name or the names of immediate family members, officials said.

Court records show many items sold at the other stores had also been purchased from Sam's Club with stolen gift cards.

B&B Mini Mart in Detroit

B&B Mini Mart on McNichols Road in Detroit was registered to Bazzi's wife, investigators said.

Between March 2014 and February 2016, Bazzi, his wife, other family members and associates bought $96,722 in products from Sam's Club stores under the B&B Mini Mart business account, officials said.

Of those purchases, $85,905 were made with stolen gift cards, court records show.

Woodbridge Gas in Detroit

Woodbridge Gas on Grand River Avenue in Detroit was registered in the name of Bazzi's sister, according to officials.

Between March 2014 and February 2016, Bazzi, family members and associates bought $1,211,935 worth of products from Sam's Club stores under the Woodbridge Gas business account, authorities said.

Of that total, $701,769 was paid for with stolen gift cards, records show.

Fort & King BP in Riverview

Fort & King BP on Fort Street in Riverview was registered to Bazzi's wife, according to authorities.

Between March 2014 and February 2016, Bazzi, his wife, family members and associates bought $934,890 worth of products from Sam's Club stores under the Fort & King BP business account, officials said.

Of that total, $720,962 was paid for with stolen gift cards, records show.

Moe & Gas in Warren

Moe & Gas on Eight Mile Road in Warren was registered to Bazzi's sister, officials said.

Between March 2014 and February 2016, Bazzi, his wife and associates bought $361,998 in goods from Sam's Club stores under the Moe & Gas business account, court records show.

Of that total, $247,839 was paid for with stolen gift cards, according to authorities.

H&M Fuel Mart in Ypsilanti

H&M Fuel Mart on Huron Street in Ypsilanti was registered to Bazzi's sister, police said.

Between March 2014 and February 2016, Bazzi, his wife, family members and associates bought $978,022 worth of products from Sam's Club stores under the H&M Fuel Mart business account, officials said.

Of that total, $822,927 was paid for with stolen gift cards, records show.

Pontiac Petro in Pontiac

Pontiac Petro on Perry Street in Pontiac was registered to Bazzi's sister, officials said.

Between March 2014 and February 2016, Bazzi, his wife, family members and associates purchased $22,832 in goods from Sam's Club stores under the Pontiac Petro business account, according to authorities.

Of that total, $9,683 was paid for with stolen gift cards, court records show.

Cards swiped at gas stations

Authorities said Bazzi would swipe the stolen gift cards using the credit card terminal at his businesses to create a false gas purchase transaction.

The move was intended to mislead credit card processing companies and credit Bazzi's account in the claimed gas purchase, essentially turning a gift card into cash, court records show.

Bazzi caused the transmission of a wire in interstate commerce every time he or one of his associates used a gift card at Sam's Club stores or gas stations.

He also caused a wire transmission whenever he communicated with others about the scheme via text message or phone calls, according to officials.

Charges

Bazzi is charged with one count of wire fraud and two counts of access device fraud, court records show.

He is accused of possessing, using or trafficking more than 15 unauthorized access devices, officials said.

Bazzi is also accused of executing transactions to receive payment or items of value equal to or greater than $1,000 through an unauthorized access device.

Authorities asked that Bazzi forfeit any money or property obtained through the alleged scheme.

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