Credit card info stolen from customers in Columbus, Atlanta, -, GA News Weather & Sports

Credit card info stolen from customers in Columbus, Atlanta

Sean Deloatch (Source: Muscogee County Sheriff's Office) Sean Deloatch (Source: Muscogee County Sheriff's Office)
Dwayne Neely (Source: Muscogee County Sheriff's Office) Dwayne Neely (Source: Muscogee County Sheriff's Office)
Antonio Escobal (Source: Muscogee County Sheriff's Office) Antonio Escobal (Source: Muscogee County Sheriff's Office)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – The Department of Justice tells News Leader 9 almost a dozen people are facing charges of credit card fraud in an elaborate identity theft scheme.

The group relied on restaurant employees to steal credit card information from unsuspecting customers in Columbus, Atlanta and Lawrenceville, GA

Investigators call this process "skimming".  

According to United States Attorney Sally Yates, the suspects obtained electronic devices known as "skimmers" which are capable of copying and storing debit and credit card information.

The information on those devices were obtained from approximately June 2009 to November 2010. 

Some of the suspects were employed at restaurants and retail establishments including, Shogun Japanese Steakhouse in Columbus, Georgia; a Krystal Restaurant in Columbus, Georgia; a McDonald's Restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia; and Polished Nail Salon in Lawrenceville, Georgia. 

Investigators say after retrieving the debit and credit card account numbers on the devices, the data was process and transferred to the magnetic stripes of blank white plastic cards or gift cards using equipment known as "encoders,".

The altered cards were then used to purchase goods.

A superseding indictment was handed down by a federal grand jury in Atlanta on August 9, 2011. The defendants charged in the superseding indictment include:

NORMAN URIAH SIMMONDS, 32, of Lilburn, Georgia;
SEAN CARLOS DELOATCH, 25, of Columbus, Georgia;
BRYAN CHARLES JONES, 32, of Atlanta, Georgia;
VANESSA ECHEVERRY, 19, of Lawrenceville, Georgia;
ANTONIO ESCOBAL, 33, of Columbus, Georgia;
LAKEYSHA RENEE HILL, 25, of Columbus, Georgia;
STEVEN MICHAEL JACKSON, 27, of Atlanta, Georgia;
JEROME CHRISTOPHER LEDGISTER, 25, of Stockbridge, Georgia;
DWAYNE MATTHEW NEELY, 28, of Columbus, Georgia;
TAMICKA LASHAUN TRICE, 26, of Atlanta, Georgia;
CARMEN MARIE WALKER, 24, of Atlanta, Georgia.

Deloatch, 25, and  Escobal, 33, both of Columbus, Georgia, pleaded guilty to certain charges in the indictment on September 7, 2011.  The remaining defendants were previously arraigned and were either detained or released on bond.

Some of the suspects face charges of conspiracy (16 counts), access device fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the access device fraud charges each carry a maximum sentence of ten or fifteen years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and the aggravated identity theft charges carry a two-year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment that runs consecutive to any other sentence imposed.  Not all of the defendants have been charged with each offense. 

This case is being investigated by Postal Inspectors of the United States Postal Inspection Service and Special Agents of the United States Secret Service.

We are told that all of the impacted restaurants and retail establishments cooperated in the investigation. 

News Leader 9 is following this story. We'll have the latest information as soon as it becomes available.

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