Hong Kong police bust criminal syndicate that stole credit cards from swimming pool lockers

Thieves made HK$800,000 from selling goods bought with the stolen credit cards

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 April, 2017, 10:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 April, 2017, 11:35pm

Six people have been arrested in recent weeks in connection with a criminal syndicate that made more than HK$800,000 by selling goods bought with stolen credit cards.

Police said the suspects had installed hidden cameras in male changing rooms at public swimming pools and sports centres across the city and used a universal key to break into lockers before stealing the contents, including credit cards.

Since October, authorities have received 32 reports of stolen credit cards and fraudulent purchases, with most victims being men.

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Johnson Chong Shing-yat, chief inspector at the Sham Shui Po Crime Squad, said the suspects had monitored the cubicles by installing a surveillance camera – a modified mobile phone – in the changing room.

They then used the stolen credit cards to buy expensive electronic items and cigaretes and then sold the items for a profit.

“Suspects went to nearby shops to make purchases when the victims were doing sports. They had to do it quick and finish the process before the victims returned to the changing room for their personal belongings,” Chong said. “The whole process took around two hours. They only took the credit cards from wallets so that victims would not be made aware easily.”

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Chong refused to name the public facilities involved because a police investigation was ongoing.

The arrests came after police followed members of the syndicate who were targeting lockers at public sports facilities, mainly in Sham Shui Po.

Two men and two women were first arrested at a Kowloon Tong shopping centre on March 29 for attempting to purchase items at an Apple Store with two stolen credit cards.

Then, on Friday, police arrested two masterminds of the syndicate, aged 34 and 36, in Lower Wong Tai Sin Estate on Friday for conspiracy to defraud. Three universal keys, four stolen credit cards, a small amount of cash and two modified mobile phones were seized.

Police said they believed they had smashed the criminal syndicate, but could not rule out the possibility of other members still being at large.