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Criminal Charges: Volume XXI — The good life on stolen plastic

Jeremy Simon

Party supplies. Wine and oysters. An acting career.

The credit card thieves featured in this week’s collection of items wanted a taste of the good life, they just didn’t want to pay for it themselves. Including tales of a Texas customer service representative to a Louisiana mayor to a Pennsylvania credit union manager, the stories below show that all sorts of criminals see stolen plastic as a way to live it up at someone else’s expense.

Customer service rep’ steals customer card info, plans party
A call service worker put credit card information she  stole from energy company customers toward online purchases, including the attempted rental of party supplies, police say.

Alliance Data Systems customer service representative Amber Lockhart of Ennis, Texas, was arrested on Dec. 10 after police were able to identify her as the suspect who used a Houston man’s credit card at a local retailer to try and rent some party supplies. Authorities soon also found that Lockhart was the suspect in a separate case involving stolen credit card data.

“Ennis police were contacted regarding an upcoming delivery to Lockhart from UPS Inc. that was made with stolen credit information, and local law enforcement made a controlled delivery that caught Lockhart on film accepting and signing for the illegal property,” the Ennis Daily News reports. So police changed from blue into brown. One of the policemen donned a UPS uniform and went with a real UPS deliverer to Lockhart’s residence, where the arrest warrant was executed, and she was taken into custody.

The occupants at Lockhart’s home refused to let police perform a search until a warrant was issued. “While Det. Sgt. Jason York was waiting at the residence for the search warrant to be executed, he observed a second delivery from Fed Ex to Lockhart’s home of items purchased with stolen credit card information,” the paper reports.

Police say that Lockhart stole credit card information from at least three Direct Energy customers while she was employed with Alliance Data System, adding that she received 12 illegal deliveries during the last two months with the swiped data. While it’s unclear whether those deliveries included a bouncy castle, it sounds like Lockhart was planning quite the party.

Taxpayers paid the price for Louisiana mayor’s days of wine and oysters
The mayor of Mandeville, La., apparently knew how to show his friends a good time.

Mayor Eddie Price allegedly charged parking fees for two colleagues, nearly $400 for hotel room costs and $228 for a bar tab to his city-issued credit card when the trio attended a June 2004 wedding in New Orleans’ French Quarter, an event he explained to the finance department as a “city function.”

But that wasn’t all he paid for on purloined plastic. “The wedding celebration was among the new details uncovered in a Times-Picayune examination of city credit card records from the past five years, supporting a state auditor’s finding that the mayor often treated himself and his closest friends to luxurious meals on the public dime,” the paper reports.

The Times-Picayune reports that Price’s credit card charges averaged more than $11,000 a year. Although the general details of Price’s spending habits have been known since the state audit was released in August, the analysis of the mayor’s credit card statements and receipts, obtained through a public records request, shined a light on details that were previously unreported. Following the audit, the FBI and state attorney general have opened investigations.

Among the charges put on his city-issued MasterCard, Price covered meals at Mandeville’s top eateries as well as more wallet-friendly po-boy and brunch spots, even picking up the tab on a $321 meal at Arnaud’s in New Orleans that included six glasses of wine and two dozen oysters.

Perhaps Price thought he was at least partially doing his part to stimulate the economy: His notations on receipts listed “economic development” and “conference” as explanation for his various expenses, with many other receipts simply left blank. He could have at least put “gastronomy.”

Credit union manager unconvincing in the role of a criminal
Pennsylvania credit union branch manager Tammy L. Margucci’s desk calendar entry for Nov. 26, 2008, included a handwritten reminder to replace the more than $27,000 allegedly stolen between September and late November 2008 to pay her credit card bills and get her acting career going.

Margucci apparently never got the chance to follow her own instruction to “Fix Vault Total” at the LANCO Federal Credit Union in Mount Joy, Pa. While Margucci was on vacation, her fellow employees discovered that $27,300 was missing when they needed to refill the tellers’ drawers. Management was notified, and a follow-up count showed that the vault was indeed short. A review of credit union records showed Margucci had last counted the money on Nov. 18. She had forged one of the teller’s initials to make it appear that the person had helped her count the funds.

It wasn’t a warm reception upon her return. According to the affidavit, “The following Monday, Dec. 8, Barbara Fortney, the credit union’s chief executive officer, was waiting for Margucci when she came to work,” LancasterOnline.com reports. Given the chance to again count the money, Margucci apparently portrayed someone with lousy math skills, overcounting the money in the vault. Fortney contacted the police.

Margucci’s co-workers didn’t provide much defense, telling police she “was working a second job and putting large sums of money into projects with a film company, in hopes of starting an acting career, in addition to investing in her boyfriend’s record,” according to the affidavit.

“When police confronted her, according to the affidavit, Margucci admitted taking the money ‘and using it to help her career as an actor and to pay for photo shoots and press kits,'” LancasterOnline reports. Margucci “also told police she used the money to pay a $7,000 credit card balance,” the paper reports. “She also admitted forging her co-worker’s initials, police said, and making the notation on her calendar.”

Stay Tuned: For your continuing edutainment, next week I’ll be looking fondly back at the  best/worst Criminal Charges items from ’08. See you then.

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  • In cases like these pre-employment screening could have prevented these actions that took place. Checking on a person’s background before hiring can save a company or even a town a lot of money.