NEW YORK — An ambitious and organized identity theft ring recruited waiters at steak houses and other high-end restaurants to steal diners' credit card information, then used it for luxury shopping sprees, authorities said Friday.
Twenty-eight people have been indicted on racketeering and other charges. Arraignments were ongoing Friday.
The group had waiters use so-called skimming devices to copy at least 50 restaurantgoers' credit card data surreptitiously while running their tabs at such powerhouse restaurants as Smith & Wollensky and Wolfgang's Steakhouse, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said. His office, the New York Police Department and the Secret Service built the case.
The ring made up counterfeit credit cards with the stolen information, then had associates fan out to buy watches, handbags and other merchandise at luxury stores including Chanel, Neiman Marcus and Cartier, authorities said. They created fake drivers licenses to back up its shoppers' phony identities, and ringleaders accompanied them to direct the purchases, prosecutors said.
The group kept some of the loot for its own use and sold the rest, sometimes stashing it in a Manhattan storage locker, authorities said. They said they seized luxury watches, a cache of expensive wine and more than $1 million in cash in various searches.
The actual credit card holders ultimately didn't have to pay for the items, authorities said.