A police raid of a self-storage unit at Manhattan Mini Storage on East 62nd Street in New York revealed expensive wine, more than $1 million in cash, and skimming and counterfeiting equipment, all attributed to an indentity-theft ring allegedly orchestrated by servers at high-end New York restaurants.
Servers from Smith & Wollensky, The Capital Grille, Wolfgangs Teakhouse, JoJo and two other restaurants were allegedly involved in a credit-card scam that swiped the identities of at least 50 customers. The crew of thieves has reportedly spent $600,000 on luxury purchases. The raid and confiscation resulted from an 18-month-long investigation that has led to 28 arrests.
The alleged ringleader gave waiters electronic skimmers, allowing them to steal customers identities and create fake American Express cards. They used those counterfeit credit cards to shop at luxury stores such as Chanel, Neiman Marcus, Cartier, Hermes, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, Waldmans, London Jewelers, Burberry, Jimmy Choo and Lord & Taylor. The items were sold to complicit customers for cash, and then the customers resold them online, prosecutors told the source.
The thieves specifically targeted black American Express Centurion cards, an invitation-only card that requires spending up to $250,000 in one year. Logically, these customers probably are less likely to notice smaller expenditures on their credit-card statements.
Together, the servers have been charged with 172 counts of racketeering, grand larceny and other charges. At the request of the assistant district attorney, all of the defendants were ordered to be incarcerated until after arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court so that authorities could verify that their bail was not paid with stolen money.