CARMEL, Ind. – Suspicious returns, counterfeit money and a suspicious store manager led to the arrests of five people in a suspected organized retail theft operation in Hamilton County.

According to court documents, the manager of a Best Buy store in Carmel became suspicious on the morning of Nov. 11 when several people who’d parked in the store’s customer lot walked a significant distance toward other stores.

Police said the behavior was “typical in retail theft” when people were trying to avoid being identified. Police found the black van with Illinois plates in question; it was still running with the driver behind the wheel.

Officers saw four people walk toward the van. Two of them came from Home Depot on N. Michigan Road with plastic bags full of items. A man who appeared to be with them trailed from a distance, while a third woman had brought items into Home Depot to get refunds.

Police talked to a cashier at Home Depot, who said three women had purchased items with $100 bills. In all, they used about 15 of the bills to make purchases. The money was counterfeit, police said, with matching serial numbers and “texture and color” that were “not consistent with that of real currency.”

The three purchases were for $413.02, $573.52 and $542.49, according to court documents.

When police approached the group, one of them—Carlos Venegas—tried to run away. An officer apprehended him. The other four people, including the driver, were taken into custody without further incident.

One of the women provided police with a fake name, according to court documents.

Another group member told investigators the group left together from New Jersey several days ago. She said it was her job to return items purchased with counterfeit money for cash refunds. She said she didn’t realize the money was “fake” until the group arrived in Indiana the day before, on Nov. 10, according to court documents.

Another suspect told detectives she went into Home Depot to return items they’d purchased at another location. The driver said he’d been paid $250 a day to drive the group to stores and wait outside.

Police found about $5,000 worth of merchandise in the van, along with more than $41,000 in counterfeit cash.

Arrested in the case were:

  • Susan Huanca, 27; organized retail theft; fraud; forgery; counterfeiting; false identity
  • Adela Canari, 39; organized retail theft; forgery; counterfeiting; fraud
  • Guillermo Antonio Castro-Quispe, 38; organized retail theft
  • Carlos Venegas, 40; organized retail theft; resisting law enforcement
  • Yamily Isaura Huaman, 35; organized retail theft, fraud, forgery, counterfeiting