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Published on June 14, 2024
Five Sister Suspects Indicted in Million-Dollar Refund Scheme Against National RetailerSource: Wikipedia/SounderBruce, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Five Washington-based sisters stand accused of swindling over $1 million from a well-known active clothing retailer through a brazen refund scheme, as announced by U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman, according to a statement on the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington. The indictment alleges that the sisters abused the retailer's "Fast-Track Returns" system to receive refund credits via gift cards without ever sending back the purchased items, they then would visit physical stores to return the same items for an additional refund.

The indictment by the grand jury specifies that the defendants, Dunia, Layla, Shahad, Raghad, and Nejoom Almansuri, requested and scanned return labels at postal service counters, thereby triggering the mailing of refund gift cards, but then failed to surrender the merchandise to the mail stream; this fraudulent behavior caused them to be slapped with charges for conspiracy and mail fraud. U.S. Attorney Gorman expressed outrage over such schemes, which she said “Refund fraud schemes such as this one simply drives up the costs for retailers and result in higher prices for the rest of us.” 

Evidence gathered detailed that the Almansuri sisters engaged in the deceitful operation across various states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, and Oregon, where they performed duplicate returns for cash refunds to their debit cards; the indictment reveals that the Almansuri siblings not only orchestrated trips to collectively execute the fraudulent returns but also shuffled the illicit gains amongst themselves. Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, overseeing HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest, stressed the importance of fighting organized retail theft which jeopardizes economic vitality, and affirmed a collaborative effort amongst communities and law enforcement to dismantle such criminal networks.

Following the unraveling of the fraudulent activities, the victimized retailer has decided to amend its return policies; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Homeland Security Investigations took the lead in unveiling the extent of the fraud, with the case being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rachel Yemini. According to the official press release, the charges faced by the defendants, each of whom faces up to twenty years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and the 24 counts of mail fraud, are yet mere allegations and their guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. The Almansuri sisters are set to stand trial, with a legal system determined to address the theft and restore integrity to the retail landscape.