A federal judge in Alexandria yesterday sentenced a Springfield jewelry store owner to two years in prison and ordered him to pay restitution of $35,000 for his involvement in a credit card theft scheme.
"This was more than just a theft," said U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. in sentencing David Lee, 27, owner of Diamonds Unlimited.
"It was a systematic scheme . . . which could only have success with the defendant's participation."
Lee was convicted this month of conspiracy and fraud for accepting stolen credit cards. He was sentenced to six concurrent two-year terms for the six counts on which he was convicted and was ordered to pay restitution to the banks that issued the credit cards. Lee remains free on bond pending appeal of his conviction.
Some of the credit cards Lee accepted at his shop had been stolen only minutes earlier from purses of women who were watching movies in a nearby cinema, according to court testimony.
The thieves used the scheme for almost a year during late 1984 and early 1985, according to evidence presented at the trial.
Lee was the first area retailer tried and convicted on charges of credit card fraud as part of a nationwide effort by federal authorities to crack down on merchant involvement in credit card abuse.
"It's a billion-dollar problem," Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Cohen told Bryan yesterday. "It's the merchant who takes this [stolen] plastic which makes this a viable crime," he said.