Skimming operation targets restaurants

May 6, 2009 8:42:23 PM PDT
Lawmen say they're in the process of busting a credit card skimming operation that's ripping off customers at a number of local restaurants. Three people have already been indicted.

Secret Service agents along with state and local law enforcement raided several homes this morning, including one in Grays Ferry and the Duffield House Apartments in Wynnfield Heights.

Inside, they allegedly found skimming devices, computers, and blank credit cards.

In court documents, Cantrell Fletcher and Michael Lewis admitted to a wide ranging credit card skimming scheme.

The defendants had "crews" that would use the skimmers to steal credit card information from unsuspecting customers at area businesses including an undisclosed restaurant on City Avenue.

The ring would then buy electronics and other high end items.

A source close to the investigation says employees at more than a dozen restaurants around the area may be involved in the scheme.

More arrests are expected.

Rob D'Ovidio, a criminal justice professor at Drexel University who specializes in computer crime, says consumers are vulnerable.

The crew uses waiters and waitresses to not only steal credit card information in restaurants, but they also place skimming devices on ATMs and even gas pumps.

Soon credit card and bank accounts are wiped out.

But some restaurants, like Legal Seafood, have taken proactive measures.

Waiters here, use handheld devices that allow diners to swipe their own credit cards, so the cards never leave their hands.

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