Three Philadelphia men were indicted yesterday on charges of illegally using the credit and debit cards of customers of two city restaurants by recruiting servers and other workers to steal their account information and then using it to create false - but functioning - cards.
According to the federal grand jury indictment, the fraud and identity-theft ring targeted other restaurants and businesses in addition to the two named: T.G.I. Friday's, 4000 City Ave., and Ruby Tuesday, 16th and Chestnut Streets.
The investigation is ongoing, said Patty Hartman, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Michael L. Levy.
The same T.G.I. Friday's has been targeted by other credit-card skimmers, according to an August grand jury indictment.
In the latest case, Michael Lewis, 35; Cantrell "Man Man" Fletcher, 27; and Keith "Goat" Pearsall, 39, all of Philadelphia, are charged with conspiracy and numerous counts of fraud and aggravated identity theft.
The indictment states that beginning in December 2007 and continuing until this spring, Lewis and Fletcher provided skimming devices "to employees of restaurants, hotels and retail stores throughout the Philadelphia area."
The "skimmers" - waitresses referred to as Co-conspirators Nos. 1, 2, and 3 - would record credit- and debit-card information from unsuspecting customers.
Lewis and Fletcher would then use encoding devices to transfer the stolen information onto the magnetic strips of other credit, debit, or plain-white plastic cards, the indictment says.
Lewis, Fletcher, and Pearsall used the cards to buy merchandise and gift cards, pay for home and car renovations, and pay the restaurant employees who worked for them, according to the indictment.
In charging the men, prosecutors only had to list aggregate amounts exceeding $1,000. For example, the indictment says that Lewis used four credit- and debit-card numbers to make $2,437.35 in unauthorized purchases.
However, the indictment says that on May 6, Lewis possessed 57 stolen credit- and debit-card numbers with the intent to make unauthorized purchases.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Potts, who is prosecuting the case, declined to provide the total amount alleged to have been stolen, citing the ongoing investigation.
If convicted on all counts, the men would face a maximum of 32 years in prison.