By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Secret Service said on Tuesday it was checking for links between the recent hacking of consumer data from Target Corp and the weekend arrest of two Mexicans who tried to enter the United States at a Texas border crossing with a cache of fraudulent credit cards.
But other law enforcement sources said it was not clear whether there was a link between the Target data breach and the arrests, which occurred at the U.S. border crossing at McAllen, Texas.
Edwin Donovan, a spokesman for the Secret Service in Washington D.C., confirmed that the agency was looking for any connection between Target data breach and the two Mexicans.
Target has said a breach of its networks during the busy holiday shopping period resulted in the theft of about 40 million credit and debit card records and 70 million other records with customer information such as addresses and telephone numbers.
"The U.S. Secret Service continues to work closely with affected parties and law enforcement to investigate the Target breach. In regards to the arrest announced yesterday, the Secret Service is working with the U.S. Attorney's Office and McAllen Police Department to determine if there is any connection," Donovan said in an email.
Three law enforcement sources familiar with the matter said there were indications that any connection between the Target breach and the man and woman could turn out to be insignificant and indirect.
One possible explanation, they said, is that the arrested pair somehow acquired credit card or other data stolen from Target over the Internet and had no real knowledge or involvement, other than as data purchasers, of the people who originally carried out the hack, who investigators say may be based in Eastern Europe.
Reports from McAllen quoted Victor Rodriguez, the local police chief, as saying that Mary Carmen Garcia Vaquera, 27, and Daniel Guardiola Dominguez, 28, both from Monterrey, Mexico, had been detained and charged with fraud related to the Target hack.
Rodriguez was quoted by the Wall Street Journal saying that the pair had used credit card data stolen from Target to purchase tens of thousands of dollars worth of goods from Walmart, Best Buy and other stores in South Texas.
The Los Angeles Times quoted another McAllen police spokesman as saying the two detained individuals had been carrying 90 fraudulent credit cards and another 22 that were found later.
(Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Ros Krasny and Steve Orlofsky)