NYC-Area Steakhouse Waiters Arrested in Credit Card Theft Scheme

Dozens of people -- including current and former waiters at high-priced steakhouses in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut -- have been arrested in connection with a scheme to steal credit card information from wealthy customers, WNBC-TV reported Friday.

Among those arrested were employees of New York City restaurants including Smith & Wollensky, The Capital Grille and Wolfgang Steak, as well as Morton's in Stamford, Conn., and The Bicycle Club in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., law enforcement sources said.

The waiters and their associates allegedly targeted customers who paid with high-limit credit cards. They are accused of using handheld scanners to copy credit card information and sending the information to the leaders of the 28-person identity theft ring, WNBC-TV reported.

The leaders would then create new credit cards with the stolen information and test the cards on taxis. If the cards worked, the scammers would use them to purchase high-end products, such as merchandise from Chanel, Jimmy Choo, Hermes and Cartier. The goods reportedly would then be re-sold on eBay.

The scheme allegedly made $1 million in profits, law enforcement sources said.

Seven waiters were charged, along with their associates, WNBC-TV reported. Most of the suspects were arraigned in Manhattan criminal court Friday.

The suspects included a waiter from Smith & Wollensky in Manhattan who secretly skimmed cards of 60 steak-lovers and a waitress from Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant JoJo, according to the New York Post.

The JoJo waitress, Jennifer Morgan, sobbed as she was ordered held in lieu of $30,000 bail. Her lawyer insisted that the recent Hunter College graduate was unaware of any larger conspiracy and had no idea that what she was doing was criminal.

"She was asked by other individuals that she do certain things, but it wasn't clear to her that these things were nefarious or that they were criminal at all," said Morgan's lawyer, Terrence Grifferty, according to the Post.

The Smith & Wollensky waiter, Brian Torrey, had worked for the steakhouse for nine years and was caught on phone and camera surveillance communicating with ringleader Luis Damian Jacas, said prosecutor Kenn Kern.

One card was hit for $30,000 in charges at ABC Carpet and Home, a source said, according to the Post.

Officials said restaurant operators had no knowledge of the scheme, WNBC-TV reported.