Police: 3 arrested in fraud scheme at Stafford Springs shop for using veterans' information

STAFFORD SPRINGS (WTIC) -- Exactly nine months after police began investigating the possibility that a local company was committing fraud and larceny, three people have been arrested.

After a joint investigation between Connecticut State Police, Department of Defense, U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command, two employees and the owner of Shark Cycle, a former Stafford Springs business, have been charged with identity theft, fraud and larceny.

Police arrested owner Robert Charland, 53, and employees Risa Bazinet, 26, and Nicholas Wargo, 33, on Monday, and charged all three with 12 counts of identity theft, 12 counts of forgery, 1 count of larceny and 1 count of money laundering each.

Three arrested in fraud scheme targeting veterans
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Three arrested in fraud scheme targeting veterans
Photo: WTIC
Photo: WTIC
Photo: WTIC
Photo: WTIC
Photo: WTIC

The investigation began when a lawyer for Polaris Industries, an ATV and motorcycle manufacturer based in Minnesota, reported to authorities that a client may be committing government document fraud.

It was determined that the employees of Shark Cycle were stealing the personal information -- names, birthday and social security numbers -- of customers who were veterans. They would then use the factual information on fraudulent Department of Defense documents, which were submitted to Polaris for a $1,000 credit. Polaris was running a rebate called "hero's medal," so that anyone with a military, police or firefighter identification who bought a new Victory motorcycle from a licensed dealer would get a $1,000 rebate.

It was found that the fraud scheme was done so that Shark Cycle could present lower prices to customers, thus spiking its sales numbers. In turn, Shark Cycle received an additional monetary bonus from Polaris for high sales numbers.

In all, about $12,000 in fraudulent rebates was made between February 2014 and September 2015.

FOX 61 covered a raid of the business on May 18, at which time boxes of files could be seen coming from the store.

All three suspects will be in court January 4. Bond was set at $100,000 for Charland, who has a previous fraud history, and $5,000 for the other two.

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