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Criminal Charges, Volume XXXVII: Fast food fraud

Jeremy Simon

Regardless of how tasty the restaurant, credit card fraud is guaranteed to leave a bad taste in the victim’s mouth.

In this week’s edition of Criminal Charges, I’ve set the table with a selection of tasty morsels, including a dumpster diving thief, a Burger King employee who allegedly stashed some plastic in a less-than-savory spot and a police officer charged with stealing a credit card to pay for some robust restaurant bills.

Dumpster diver surfaces with stolen identities
Ashley Johnson.JPGPolice say Ashley Johnson of Memphis, Tenn., went looking for moving boxes in the trash and ended up stealing the identities of as many as 100 people.

Apparently, while dumpster diving behind a McAlister’s Deli restaurant, Johnson came across discarded job applications that included Social Security numbers. That information apparently enabled her to apply for a number of credit cards, which were used to make purchases at various retailers. “According to arrest documents, the scheme started in December 2008, and Johnson racked up $60,000 on credit cards at stores like Macy’s, Target and JCPenney,” reports.

Although one restaurant’s trash may be another woman’s treasure, all didn’t end well for the alleged identity thief. “Johnson was caught inside the Macy’s store at Wolfchase Mall Friday, April 10, 2009, trying to open another credit card,” the Web site reports. “A Macy’s loss prevention employee had met with sheriff’s detectives recently and recognized Johnson,” according to a new release from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

“Detectives say Johnson would open the accounts and immediately buy merchandise and then return it at another location for gift cards worth $200 to $2,000. She sold the cards on the street for half-price,” the sheriff’s report says. “Investigators say Johnson stole between $30,000 and $60,000 worth of merchandise since last December.”

Burger King employee steals credit card from drive-through window
The number 13 proved unlucky for a cardholder in Cross Lanes, W.Va., after her credit card was stolen from a Burger King drive-through window and used to make that number of unauthorized charges.

Burger King employee Savanna Dawn Shaffer (identified elsewhere as Shafer) allegedly stole that credit card while working at the restaurant’s drive-through window. According to a report by the Charleston Daily Mail, cardholder Brittany Wallace told police that the last time she used her credit card was when she visited a local Burger King. After paying with her plastic, Wallace left the drive-through without recovering her credit card from the cashier, later identified as Shaffer.

A report on the incident by WOWK-TV says police reported surveillance footage “shows the victim driving away and Shaffer looking around before concealing the victim’s card inside her bra.” The victim later returned to the Burger King to recollect her card, but was told that no cards had been handed in.

The credit card apparently wasn’t handed in because Shaffer decided to use the plastic for a 13-stop, six-hour shopping spree, racking up more than $1,000  at various convenience stores, gas stations and pharmacies.

Shaffer was arrested on a number of charges, including felony fraudulent use of an access device.

Delaware police man accused of using stolen plastic to fund his food habit
A police veteran from Dover, Del., has been charged with stealing more than $17,000 from the Fraternal Order of Police to pay for personal expenses, including hundreds of dollars in restaurant tabs.

Based on court records, Cpl. Benjamin J. Marvel admitted to investigators that he mistakenly charged in excess of $1,200 on the Fraternal Order of Police’s credit card. According to Dover police, “further investigation found that Marvel also took more than $16,000 from Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 15, where he was treasurer for nine years,” Delaware Online reports.

An 11-year Dover police veteran, Marvel has been placed on administrative leave with pay until the case is resolved. Marvel resigned as treasurer in February, according to court records, when the investigation began.

Exactly where is Marvel accused of using the credit card? Court records suggest it was largely at restaurants:

  • $31 at Touchdown Lounge in Dover on March 3, 2008.
  • $420 at Famous Dave’s in Philadelphia on July 18, 2008.
  • $23 at the SportsZone restaurant in Smyrna on Sept. 15, 2008.
  • $138.67 at the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) in Dover on Sept. 15, 2008.
  • $523.48 to pay for his personal Verizon Wireless phone bill on Oct. 3, 2008.
  • $26 at Annie’s Paramount Steak House in Grasonville, Md., on Oct. 22, 2008.
  •  $50 at JW’s Sports Bar & Restaurant on Nov. 11, 2008.

Hope the meals were worth it.

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