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Three arrested as part of reward card scheme that allegedly stole $134,000

Zachary Armstrong (Photo courtesy of Franklin County Detention Center)

WILTON - Three men have been arrested, a juvenile has been charged and other warrants are pending in relation to a complex gas reward points scheme that police believe resulted in the theft of more than $130,000 from Exxon Mobil.

Three men were arrested Tuesday evening in relation to the alleged theft; all three had their initial appearances in court Wednesday afternoon via video-conference. Zachary Armstrong, 19 of Wilton; Scott Lavoie, 53 of Wilton; and Preston Riley, 18 of Wilton; were all arrested on warrants issued on the charge of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer, a Class B felony.

Additionally, a 16-year-old juvenile was issued a summons in relation to the case. Another two individuals are currently being sought on active arrest warrants.

According to arrest affidavits filed with the Franklin Court system by Wilton Police Officer Ethan Kyes, the investigation began in early March with a complaint from the owner of Gould's Service Station in East Wilton. Exxon Mobil had contacted the owner to inform him about allegedly fraudulently redeemed reward points, with the value of those points exceeding $100,000. The owner located receipts that he believe may have been involved in fraud: each reflected large purchases of propane at close to zero real-money cost.

Kyes began investigating the various elements of the rewards program and the business, determining that the total value of redeemed reward points claimed at the service station was $137,125.74. In May, Kyes received information from Exxon Mobile regarding the Internet Protocol addresses used to set up reward cards connected to the alleged fraud at Gould's Service Station. Kyes then used those IP addresses to locate local addresses.

Scott Lavoie (Photo courtesy of Franklin County Detention Center)

The Wilton officer spoke with one Internet account holder in June; a family member of that individual had worked at Gould's. The employee, a 17-year-old juvenile, reportedly told Kyes that Armstrong was the "ring leader" and implicated two other employees.

"[The juvenile] stated he was unsure how Zachary [Armstrong] made everything work but knew he made a large amount of money off the Exxon Mobile Reward Plus cards," Kyes wrote in the affidavit.

The employee was paid between $2,000 and $3,000 to create accounts using the reward cards, reportedly telling Kyes that he created approximately 100 cards.

The alleged theft involved unwitting customers who came in to purchase gas with cash. Participating employees would use the reward cards, stocked with hundreds of thousands of fraudulently-earned points, to pay for the gas and then keep the customer's money.

Kyes also met with Lavoie, who lived at another household associated with the alleged theft via its IP address. Lavoie denied knowing about any fraud, indicating he would not answer any more questions after Kyes told him that 107 reward cards had been activated at that residence.

A 16-year-old former employee allegedly involved with the theft told Kyes that Armstrong had showed him how to use the reward cards fraudulently on the first day he started working at Gould's.

Preston Riley (Photo courtesy of Franklin County Detention Center)

On Aug. 14, Kyes met with Armstrong at Gould's. According to the affidavit, Armstrong told the officer that he received between $22,000 and $30,000 from using the reward cards and that Lavoie had received a similar amount. Another adult that has not been arrested received roughly $15,000, while the two juveniles and Riley allegedly received roughly $1,000 to $2,000 as part of the theft.

Armstrong reportedly told Kyes that he learned from a former employee a few years ago about how to fraudulently use reward cards. That individual used a different reward card; Armstrong used the Exxon Mobile reward card program  as it offered more points. He also learned that date/time stamps in the system could be modified and that propane gas purchases would accumulate points faster than other products.

According to Assistant District Attorney Kayla Palestini, six people were currently believed to have been involved in the alleged theft. That group includes Armstrong, Lavoie and Riley, all of who were arrested Tuesday evening on warrants and taken to Franklin County Detention Center. A fourth individual, the 16-year-old juvenile, was issued a summons.

In court Wednesday, bail was set at $200 cash, with conditions of no contact for the named co-defendants as well as conditions not to return to Gould's station.

A Class B felony carries up to a 10-year prison sentence in Maine, as well as up to a $20,000 fine.

No pleas were entered, as any felony charge would need to first appear before a Franklin County grand jury. The next scheduled court date for all three men is Nov. 13.

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29 Responses »

  1. Pretty clever, easy to do, with the reward cards as they don't have a preset amount, spend money earn points, inside man applies for a card, when it comes in activates it and if a person buys say 10 gallons of gas that's 30 points at 3 points per gallon, 100 points equals $1 in store credit that can be used for things Exxon sells, Gas, food anything in store. Gas is 3 points per gallon and 2 points for every $1 of real money you spend in store for non fuel/gas items. Accrue tons of points on the card, use the card with all the points on it and pocket the customer's cash, I remember somebody doing a similar thing with Irving's cards.

  2. This is absolutely ridiculous. These individuals took advantage of the trust that the owner had in them. He counted on them to help run his business and help it be successful. Instead, they choose to lie and steal from a great man who has served this community for 40 years. They should be ashamed of themselves for what they did. I hope that they get some jail time to reflect on their poor decisions. And also that the owner receives some compensation for what was taken. Shameful....

  3. A 19 year old ringleader and a 53 year old follower? What is wrong with people?

  4. What next , bet they get a slap on the wrist ……..looking at the amount of bail

  5. Sad when corporations have to bait customers with the smoke and mirrors of ‘rewards’ instead of relying on good service and fair prices. Hard to believe these discounts(rewards) aren’t monitored at the station. Exxon got what they deserved and I hope the thieves do as well.

  6. exxon deserve to be stolen from

  7. Isn’t this what the credit card companies do to people every day?

  8. Outstanding investigate work by Officer Ethan Kyes and Wilton P.D. Very impressive follow-through on several complex cases such as this one.

  9. Captain Planet / boo hoo / Plumber I'm surprised at these comments. I can certainly understand anti-corporate sentiments at times when people actually get screwed by them (can anyone say CMP?), but here is a gas station owned by an individual, with competitive prices, providing products and services that people need everyday and you want to dump on him or the company that that produces the products?? Is there any appreciation for the things you have available every day that someone puts their livelihood into? Hate the credit card companies? The ones you may have "freely" entered into an agreement with? If you pay off your balance each month, they actually GIVE you free loans every month! Hate "fossil fuels?" The same stuff that runs your car, keeps you warm and runs the entire economy for the rest of the stuff you live with. Continually focusing on the negative must make for a miserable life. Wake up, have some appreciation and gratitude for something. Put the blame for this where it belongs.

  10. This is so sad! With a man that has serviced and help a community out for over forty years, and to have some one think they deserve more than the $11 + dollars they get to pump gas/propane. I did that job and it is not easy, especially in Maine weather!! Not stealing from anyone, is how I was raised. If it is not yours and you did NOT earn it, IT IS NOT YOURS, DON'T TOUCH!! Feel bad for the owner. Hope insurance will compensate him for all the losses!

  11. Thank you Officer Kyes and Wilton Police Department!

  12. Pine Tree! What a hypocrite! Can anyone say CMP …. What company gives you a product and then gives you 30 days to pay for it? Turn off your power and see how that works out for ya!

  13. Stealing from others is wrong. It does not matter if you are a big corporation or a small puny insignificant person as myself. I believe in doing to others as I would have them do to me. I do not always succeed but I try. I am not perfect. Never have been & never will be. I am trying to do the right thing. Maybe if we all did, the world would be a better place.

  14. CMP has been blatantly overbilling thousands of customers and telling their service personnel to tell those customers it because of their overuse of power. And the company STILL refuses to admit there are significant problems with their "smart" meters. I AM grateful the problem hasn't affected us, we've had enough disrespectful "service" from them.

  15. Captain Planet and Pinetree, in what universe does any of your comments have anything to do with the fact that a person who has owned a business and served the community for 40 years has been betrayed. He has been betrayed by people he trusted. People he worked with day in and day out. It is about losing trust in humanity. I am totally disgusted with the way things are going in society today when people think that they can just take, take, take.

    To let them out on a felony charge with $200 cash is kind of crazy. I hope that all those involve get more than a slap on the hand. Great work Wilton PD.

  16. Great investigative work..

  17. Make the 6 individuals pay back all the money and do some jail time!!! That should make them think twice...

  18. We all understand what they did was wrong! And yes of course they deserve consequences for their actions! But most of them are just kids who made a mistake.. they made a horrible choice! Everyone is judging them for one decision they made as kids... taught how to do this by grown adults! Yes, 18 and 19 are considered adults legally... but none of you remember what it was like to be that age? Did you all make perfect choices? I know I didn’t and no one I know did... people don’t think like fully grown adults at that age! Not to mention that not one of you know these kids... but you have the right to say what their future should be, to be judge and jury based in a news paper article, and to wish the worst for them? To be such Hypocrites? All anyone knows is what is posted in the media! No one has heard any of their sides or reached out to them! 16, 17, 18, and 19 and their futures should be decided and based on one mistake? Not one of you knows their story, what their lives are like, what they go through, or have been through.... No one knows why they made this choice, wrong or not! Did anyone stop to think that they are probably scared out of their minds... that they might have not known what they were really doing or getting into? Or why the grown adult that taught them how to do this isn’t being held responsible? No because no one has asked them, you all sit behind a screen and judge! Did any of you stop to think what their families or parents are going through right now? What’s wrong with this world is that everyone has nothing better to do but go online and judge everyone else as tho they are perfect but no one shows compassion or empathy anymore! Why not use this to teach and guide them to be and do better for themselves and the community... not destroy their entire futures... None of you want to see kids that make mistakes grow from them... to learn and be better function members of our community? I know as a social worker I would love to see these families and kids turn this around, learn, and grow and maybe teach someone else from their mistakes. That’s what I strive to do everyday in my line of work and isn’t that what the system and communities are for to support the future... kids, teenagers, and young adults? But instead you are all hoping and wishing the worst with out a second thought that these are people, families, kids... we should all be looking at why this happened why they made this choice and how to fix it not to destroy and break them! Wouldn’t that make the world a better place!?

  19. Mr. Gould is a good man,worked hard long time, sorry to see this happen to him,,know everyone their,kinda blew my socks off,reading what they did,i wish you the best Mr.Gould,iam just a long time customer,,

  20. When I was young, did illegal things and got caught I got fined and or jail. Then I got sick of that and decided not to put myself in those situations. I stopped getting fined and going to jail. Imagine that?

  21. Same here, BJB. Cops wouldn't leave me alone. Then I decided to stop ******* up and they lost all interest. Weird how that works.

  22. Imagine this... they aren’t you and no one knows if they would do it again... I agree they should have consequences... but labeled a felon and jail with their first offense! Bit much... bet someone gave you more than one chance... clearly!

  23. I have a few things to say about this:

    1st: if they didn't steal money i don't see whats wrong with this, no thats not how rewards work, but its not stealing. If the customers didn't claim their own rewards, why cant other people claim them? Is there a law saying they cant do this?

    2nd: Always use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) they are like 4 USD per month, and a Virtual Machines (VM) they are free. Using these 2 things, not even the NSA or FBI can track what you do online.

    3rd: if you really need money, invest in Cryptocurrency. BTC was less them 3k per coin at the start of this year, they are now over 10k per coin. BTC has performed better then any of the FANG companies. (watch have performed the best out of any stocks) The best buys are BTC, XVG, TRX, ADA, VET, if you put 1k into each of these today, buy next year you can cash out for much more then you spent, Altcoins are at an all time low compared to BTC. I invested $3500 3 years ago, i now have over 760k if i cashed out. The best part is you dont have to pay tax until you cash out.

  24. Reality & Support, I agree to an extent and that is fortunately what our legal system is for (when/if it always pans out that way is debatable). I am not much older than them. Many of the same kids I knew making terrible life choices, are now adults and still are because they were never held fully accountable for the extent and breadth of their actions when they were younger. People who are now lifelong thieves, drug dealers, or thugs. What's the deterrent when astute kids tell themselves "Hey, if I get busted- it won't matter because I am a kid" and they consciously commit the crime anyway? Also, what's the threshold of responsibility when it was an organized operation and no one paused to say "Hey, this doesn't seem right!"? This wasn't really a small offense. This was a well thought out plan.

    I don't know these kids BUT i do believe we do nothing for society if we always go back to "They're kids" argument.
    But yes I will wholeheartedly agree, their individual circumstances SHOULD be considered in determining the weight of their actions.

  25. I have same question or concern as code-x. Mr Gould didn’t lose money or seem to be stolen from.? They used reward points that nobody was going to use. Please explain how this is unlawful? I hear of people using family reward cards all the time because the other person couldn’t use them etc
    Please explain

  26. My understanding, from reading about the scheme here and in other news outlets, is that they created fake accounts that they would then collect points on. After all, when a customer pays cash, they usually don't give their name or any other info.
    I also want to point out that although it's true that none of us knows "what their lives are like, what they go through, or have been through", to quote the 'social worker', plenty of us come from much less than ideal home lives and backgrounds. That doesn't mean we don't know better than to participate in months-or-years long unlawful activity aimed at scamming the system. This is more than simple bad decision making, and this was more than one mistake - every swipe of a fake rewards card was deliberate theft.

  27. Don't sound like it was a collect unused point thing which goes on all over the place.

  28. Lauraly - Please read the 9th paragraph of the story & your questions will be answered.

  29. Reality & Support... This isn't their first offense, it's just the first time they were caught. Pretty big difference. And it wasn't just one act, one "mistake" as you call it. They took repeatedly until they were caught. Last time I checked, theft in excess of $1,000 is a felony. No judgment, just my interpretation of the facts as they are presented.

    Your assertion of what's wrong with the world is flawed in part because it's not the only problem. Compassion should not outweigh logic, nor should it be "bought". It's unfair to say someone raised in a hand to mouth household should receive any more or less compassion than someone raised by a nanny. Our hardships shouldn't be compared.

    I agree that there needs to be support to prevent recidivism, but it should not be in place of punishment, it should be in conjunction. Their upbringing should be considered when planning a support program but the degree of punishment should fit the degree of involvement. Unless these people were raised by hermits, homeschooled and unsocialized, there had to be way too many people to fail them for me to believe that they don't know right from wrong. I'm not perfect, I don't pretend to be, but I learned in Kindergarten that it's not okay to take what isn't yours.

    Code-X & Lauraly... My interpretation could be wrong but here's what I understand from this article. Rewards points were fraudulently obtained/used, Exxon brought it to Gould's attention, Gould reported it to police, police investigated and found evidence they believe constituted theft, then obtained and executed arrest warrants for theft by unauthorized taking or transfer. Now, that's not by any means a closed case, but for anyone wondering why it's against the law, read the law. Things occurring contrary to a law are (are you sitting down for this?) against the law.

    Boo hoo...Exxon doesn't absorb costs on its own. They will pass it along to their customers. And, since Exxon's price has gone up, so will other fuel vendors. And since the price of fuel is going up, the increased transportation costs for goods and services goes up, thus the price folks have for pay for said goods and services goes up. I believe that's called macroeconomics.