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St. Petersburg telemarketer eavesdropped to steal credit card numbers, authorities say

ST. PETERSBURG — A St. Petersburg man has been charged with stealing customers' credit card numbers from a marketing company he worked for to buy nearly $30,000 in dinners, limos and other luxuries.

After a four-month investigation, deputies arrested Christopher Albert Fregapane, 25, of 4544 40th Ave. N on a felony charge of scheming to defraud, according to an arrest affidavit.

Fregapane was in the Pinellas County Jail on Friday in lieu of $10,000 bail.

Deputies said Fregapane gathered the credit card information while working as a telemarketer for Eclipse Property Solutions, a St. Petersburg marketing firm he joined in July 2009, said Sgt. Tom Nestor, a Pinellas sheriff's spokesman.

Deputies said Fregapane and another employee, Michael Northcutt, 26, listened from their cubicles as co-workers repeated customer credit card information aloud to confirm accounts.

"They just did it so easily," said Detective Stephanie Pagels, who worked on the case. "They were smooth."

The scheme fueled a lavish lifestyle, Pagels said.

There was a trip to Orlando, a stay at Disney's Contemporary Resort, stretch limos, gift cards, furniture and dinners. On one night, they rented out an entire restaurant banquet room for a girlfriend's birthday party.

"They were living the high life with people's stolen credit cards," Pagels said.

They also used stolen information to pay bills and to order a lot of pizza — to the point that even the pizza places started to think something was fishy, Pagels said.

"When Hungry Howie's started realizing they'd been defrauded, they moved on to Domino's and Pizza Hut," Pagels said. "They wore their welcome out at all those places."

Investigators began looking into the scheme in October when a cardholder who lived in Oklahoma noticed he was being charged for expenses in Pinellas County.

Nestor said detectives have probable cause to arrest Northcutt on the same charge, though they think he is out of state.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.

St. Petersburg telemarketer eavesdropped to steal credit card numbers, authorities say 02/12/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 12, 2010 10:30pm]
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