Restaurant patrons defrauded

Updated: 07/16/2014 8:53 PM
Created: 07/16/2014 4:49 PM WHEC.com
By: Brett Davidsen

Investigators say a scammer targeted unsuspecting diners in Pittsford. Now, a man faces 19 charges in a scheme that turned customers at the Cheesecake Factory into victims.

Police are not talking to News10NBC about the case because they say it is very much an active investigation. It appears it started when customers of the restaurant began reporting unauthorized charges on their credit cards.

The investigation revealed there were 19 compromised debit and credit card numbers. What the owners of those cards have in common is that they all were customers at Cheesecake Factory in Pittsford between October and November of last year.

News10NBC obtain a copy of an affidavit from a Secret Service special agent investigating the case. According to him, the same waitress served all 19 patrons. Investigators believe she was using a handheld skimming device, which steals account information off the card’s magnetic strip.

The documents say the stolen credit card information was then used by others to purchase gift cards at stores throughout Monroe County with the unauthorized charges exceeding $13,000.

Consumer advocates say this type of fraud is on the rise.

Destiney Fraguada, Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Rochester, said, "You're taking a chance and a risk every time you go to a restaurant or bar or anywhere you can't see them cash you out."

According to the affidavit, investigators believe a Penfield man was behind the scheme. Andres Vasquez is now charged with 18 counts of possessing forged credit cards. The federal court documents outline an elaborate credit card fraud operation using a number of technologies and a network of associates.  According to investigators, it was Vasquez who provided the card skimmer. 

Consumer watchdogs say it is wise to always be on alert to credit card fraud.

Fraguada said, “Constantly check your bank statements if you get them by mail or email. If you notice something that comes up and it doesn't ring a bell on a purchase that you have made, at that point in time, contact your bank immediately."

According to the documents, the woman denied involvement in the credit card fraud. News10NBC has not been able to find any charges filed against her at this point. She was, however, fired from her job at Cheesecake Factory. 

Statement from Cheesecake Factory

“We will continue to cooperate with the local authorities to ensure that this matter is thoroughly investigated, and the proper individuals are brought to justice. The Company provides extensive training to our staff members on proper cash and credit card handling procedures. Our staff members are also advised to immediately report if they observe any conduct or other activities that are inconsistent with our policies.” --- Spero Alex, Sr. Vice President of Operations

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