Man Arrested in D.C. Restaurant Credit Card Scam

By Del Quentin Wilber
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 14, 2009

A Germantown man has been accused of obtaining stolen credit card data belonging to more than 20 patrons of a District restaurant.

Alpha Daye Bah, 31, was arrested last week on fraud charges filed in the District's federal court. The U.S. Secret Service says in court documents that Bah passed stolen credit card numbers to co-conspirators who used the information to buy more than $12,000 in goods from retailers.

The scam appears similar to one that has resulted in eight guilty pleas in Alexandria's federal court in recent months.

The Secret Service says that an unidentified server at an unnamed restaurant stole credit card numbers from more than 20 customers during a recent two-month period and gave them to Bah.

Agent Jonathan Schmucker wrote that he learned about the thefts after speaking to an investigator with Citigroup, which had detected fraudulent purchases on several credit card accounts belonging to patrons of the restaurant. Schmucker did not identify the restaurant in court papers.

Schmucker said he tracked down a server who had processed five of the six purloined credit card numbers. The server admitted that he ran customers' credit cards through a skimming device that captured the cards' data, the agent said.

The server turned the skimmer over to Bah once a week, Schmucker wrote, and watched as Bah transferred the data to a computer. Generally, scam artists imprint stolen data onto cards that can be used at retailers or ATMs, authorities have said.

Schmucker said the server began working with the Secret Service last month and loaded the skimmer with information from three government-issued credit cards.

Shortly after the server gave credit card information to Bah on July 17, one of the accounts was used to buy items at a liquor store and a department store in Germantown, the agent wrote.

Bah's attorney, Paul F. Kemp, declined to comment. Bah could not be reached.

In June, federal prosecutors in Alexandria said that servers at several Washington restaurants, including Clyde's and M&S Grill, used skimming devices to steal credit card information from customers.

At least five servers passed the information to three men, who used the stolen data to buy purses, clothing and other goods at high-end stores. The total loss to financial institutions, which covered the thefts, was more than $700,000, prosecutors said. The men paid servers $20 for each stolen card.

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