Best Buy employee, boyfriend charged in identity theft ring



GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Best Buy Corporation is apologizing to the victims of an identity theft ring that appears to have involved a Gwinnett County Best Buy employee and her boyfriend.

Investigators say Adriana Orellana ran applications for iPhone and Verizon service using the names and information from victims her boyfriend had stolen the identities from.

Christopher Verdell is behind bars. Both he and Orellana are charged in three cases where police say they have video showing the couple committing the crimes at the Best Buy store on Pleasant Hill Road in Duluth.

That is the store where Orellana worked in the phone department. Gwinnett County police reports show Best Buy internal security suspects there are as many as 30 additional incidents at the Pleasant Hill store and another store in Atlanta where a relative of Orellana's works.

"I got a welcome letter from Verizon in the mail," said alleged victim Sam Rushing.

Rushing told Channel 2 Gwinnett Bureau Chief Tony Thomas that the letter was the first indication he had of any problem. After looking into the issue, he realized someone had ordered two iPhones and service plans from the store. 

He called Best Buy and was told the company already had the couple under surveillance and suspected something was going on.

"Apparently they had my social security number, address, and whatever other information they had I don't know." Rushing said.

"Pretty risky, pretty bold, and then to do those transactions in the store where she works, pretty bold," Gwinnett County police Cpl. Jake Smith said.

Investigators said Orellana confessed to her role in the crimes and put all the blame on Verdell. She claimed not to know where he got the stolen information and said he paid her about $300 for her role. Orellana has bonded out of jail. Verdell remains in jail on a $7,800 bond.

In a way, Rushing is just relieved to know he was not the only victim.

"The more there are, the longer they are going away," he said.

Best Buy Corporate officials sent Thomas an email late Friday which reads:

“We are disappointed by allegations that an employee would engage in criminal fraud. Conspiring to use customer data stolen from a third-party source to activate phones and tablets goes against everything we expect from our employees and everything we stand for as a company. As soon as we detected the fraud, we immediately enlisted the help of police. We apologize to the individuals who were affected and are continuing to work with authorities involved with the case.”

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