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Criminal Charges: Volume XVI

Jeremy Simon

Welcome to another edition of Criminal Charges, my ongoing look at illegal activities involving plastic. Today’s roundup of credit card crimes is all over the place: we’ve got fraudsters at work and play, illegal plastic payments for a puppy and parking tickets and an ATM thief who decided to stop at a Waffle House.

Credit card fraudsters go to work
Fraudsters have day jobs, too. A Miami mailman was sentenced on Nov. 13 for his role as the ringleader of a gang that used credit cards stolen from the mail to make fraudulent purchases at local businesses. Meanwhile, a Rockland County, N.Y., community college employee has been charged with illegally charging more than $2,200 in online clothing purchases on the credit cards of former students who paid for copies of their college transcripts. Separately, a former head of human resources for electronics company Hitachi America has been charged with using $8 million of the company’s health care plan funds for personal expenses, including a home in Florida, a Lexus and $1 million personal credit card payments for consumer goods.

Criminals love the nightlife
Criminals also like to hit the town. Take the man who started a fire at a Washington, D.C., gentlemen’s establishment nearly one year ago and recently went on trial.

Police were reportedly able to track fire starter Vasile Graure through a credit card he used at Good Guys’ ATM.

According to prosecutors, Graure was angry about being kicked out of the strip club for trying to photograph the dancers. “Good Guys manager Kathleen Lazorchack says she caught Graure taking pictures with his cell phone and escorted him to the door. She says Graure swore at her and then threw his drink in the club’s front foyer,” reports “Prosecutors say Graure then went up the block to purchase a gasoline can, gas and a lighter before coming back to the club.” The fire he set ended up severely burning one of the club’s bouncers.

Elsewhere, after his credit card was declined, a bar patron in Lawton, Okla., got stuck on a different form of currency.

A bartender told police that while the man was shooting pool, he spilled some of his open beer on the bar’s billiards table. His night soon went from bad to worse. The bartender said “he first tried to pay his $32 tab with a credit card, which was declined,” the Associated Press reports. “When police arrived and ordered the man to pay his tab, they reported that he began counting out gum wrappers as if they were cash.” With both his plastic and wrappers apparently rejected, the man was taken into police custody on complaints of disorderly conduct and assault on a police officer.

Robbing Peter to pay for puppy, parking tickets
Proving there is no rule that says criminals cannot be pet lovers, a Calumet City, Ill., resident used a fraudulent credit card to both buy a dog and then pay for its health care.

Police say that Timothy Whitfield used the bogus plastic to purchase an American Eskimo puppy at a pet store and then pay for a visit to a veterinarian. According to police, “Whitfield stole the puppy earlier in October and took it to the clinic and paid for services using the same account,” reports The Chicago Tribune. “He was arrested when he returned to the clinic for a follow-up visit, police said.”

Meanwhile, officials say Mustafa Rameez of Long Island, N.Y., was arrested Nov. 12 after he tried to use a stolen credit card to pay about $1,700 in New York City parking tickets. “The city’s Department of Investigation said Rameez used a stolen credit card to make Internet payments for at least 12 parking tickets he received between September and August 2007. DOI’s investigators said Rameez also used a stolen card to pay other bills,” reports

If using one credit card to pay off another signals a problem with debt, then using one crime to pay off another must signal a problem with crime.

ATM thief batters stores, enjoys waffles
A Woodruff, S.C., thief must have worked up quite an appetite: His most important meal of the day also proved to be his last as a free man.

After using a stolen truck to smash through two businesses and a chain to drag off the ATM machines inside, police found Tony Dale Dickard using the stolen cash to dine at a nearby Waffle House restaurant. “Deputies caught up with the suspect at the Waffle House on Highway 221 in Roebuck where he had apparently stopped for breakfast. They say he still had the stolen ATM in his truck,” reports.

Dickard ended up being charged with more than the price of his meal — including grand larceny, burglary and possession of a stolen vehicle.

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