A homeless man has been sentenced to four years in prison for being the mastermind behind an intricate Beverly Hills credit-card scam that stole over $500,000 of luxury bags, shoes and jewelry from posh shops like Gucci, Fendi, Chanel and Torneau.
Trace Jevon Jones, 33 — who was known as “Million Dollar” because of his dapper way of dressing despite living on the streets in downtown Los Angeles — pleaded guilty in September 2020 to an identity-theft scheme that put dozens of American Express AXP, +1.52% cards in his hands.
Prosecutors say Jones and his accomplices contacted Amex posing as actual customers who had lost their credit cards. They then tracked the shipment of newly-issued cards using their phones, and intercepted the delivery before it reached the real customer.
With their cards, they went to high-end shops in L.A., Beverly Hills and Costa Mesa and purchased tens of thousands of dollars worth of luxury goods. The group was charged with spending over $100,000 at Barneys, $90,000 at Goyards and $45,000 at Torneau. They also spent tens of thousands more at Christain Louboutin, Balenciaga, Fendi and Gucci, prosecutors said.
Many of the goods were later sold for cash online, court papers said.
In all, the scheme netted over $520,000 before the group was arrested in 2018, prosecutors said.
“This was not a one-time event or an isolated lapse of judgment,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memo. “While the ultimate victim here was American Express (because it reimbursed the individual victims), stealing and misusing victims’ identities and account information is a serious nationwide problem that can have lasting impact.”
Messages left with attorneys for Jones weren’t immediately returned.
In court papers, Jones’ attorneys admitted that he had taught his accomplices how to operate the scam, but challenged the notion that he was the ringleader. They said that Jones had been homeless for considerable stretches of his life dating back to when he was a teenager, and that the scheme wasn’t about financing a lavish lifestyle but simply to survive.
A message sent to a representative for American Express wasn’t immediately returned.
Jones’ accomplices all pleaded guilty. Two are serving sentences of two and three years; two were sentenced to time served; and the fifth is awaiting sentencing.
In addition to his 48-month jail term, Jones was ordered to pay American Express $521,000 in restitution.