Friday, November 18, 2011

NYC Steakhouse Workers Arrested for Fraud

NBC New York: More than two dozen current and former waiters and their associates from some of the city's top steakhouses have been arrested in an alleged identity theft ring, accused of stealing credit card numbers from wealthy customers, NBC New York has learned.

Several suspects are from top city restaurants like Smith and Wollensky, Capital Grille and Wolfgang Steak, as well as Morton’s in Stamford and the Bicycle Club in New Jersey, sources said.

The alleged scam targeted customers who often paid with American Express Black cards and other high-limit credit cards, according to sources.

Law enforcement sources said some restaurant workers used handheld scanners to copy the credit card information as they walked away to process the bill. Later, that information would be sent to leaders of the alleged fraud ring, who would forge new credit cards with the stolen information and test them out on taxis.

If the cards worked, the suspects would go on major shopping sprees, buying up expensive goods like Chanel goods and Jimmy Choo shoes. The thieves would then re-sell the luxury brand items for cash.

Officials estimate profits totaled at least $1 million, sources said.

NYPD officials and District Attorney Cy Vance were expected to announce details of the case Friday. Many of the suspects are also expected to be arraigned in Manhattan criminal court.

An NYPD spokesman declined to comment Thursday, as did a Vance spokeswoman.

Managers at Smith & Wollensky, the Bicycle Club and Capital Grille restaurants declined to comment.

A manager at one Wolfgang’s restaurant said he believed all workers on the schedule Thursday had arrived and was unaware of any law enforcement allegations against any worker.

A manager at Morton's also referred calls to its corporate headquarters.

Officials stress restaurant operators had no knowledge of the alleged crimes by the few employees.

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