An identity-theft ring recruited waiters at high-end restaurants to steal diners' credit-card information, then used it for luxury shopping sprees, authorities said Friday.
Manhattan prosecutors indicted 28 people were indicted on racketeering and other charges.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said waiters used a so-called "skimming" devices to copy at least 50 restaurant-goers' credit-card data when diners paid their bill. He added the defendants targeted people with certain kinds of credit cards.
"If you take someone who has a Black American Express card or a Gold card, with a limit that is essentially either unlimited or sky-high, you're going to be able to purchase for up to a month without having any, necessarily, any trigger to the customer," he said.
Restaurants where waiters were recruited included Smith & Wollensky, The Capital Grille and Wolfgang's Steakhouse. The DA’s office, the NYPD and the U.S. Secret Service built the case.
The ring then made up counterfeit credit cards with the stolen information, and had others go out and buy luxury goods from stores such as Chanel, Neiman Marcus and Cartier, authorities said. The group manufactured fake drivers' licenses to back up its shoppers' phony identities, and ringleaders accompanied them to direct the purchases, prosecutors said.
Directed by 41-year-old ringleader Luis Damian "D.J." Jacas, the group was choosy and careful, authorities said. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Jacas didn't allow more than $35,000 in purchases on any one card and would ditch each after about three days' use.
"This group was certainly well organized and very selective," Kelly said at a news conference as he and other officials stood in front of a table strewn with some of the more than $1 million in watches, 100 handbags and $1.1 million in cash they said they had confiscated in various searches.
The group kept some goods for its own use and sold the rest, authorities said.
"The high-end targets of this case make it notable, but, disturbingly, this case is far from unique," Vance said in a statement. The announcement came two days after his office announced indictments of three men accused of planting skimming devices and video cameras to capture ATM users' bank-card numbers and passwords.
The actual credit-card holders ultimately didn't end up having to pay for the items, authorities said.
With the Associated Press