PORTLAND, Maine — A New York man was sentenced to 15 months in prison for credit card fraud during a hearing Friday in U.S. District Court in Portland.
Mark Daniel, 24, of Brooklyn also was ordered to undergo three years of supervised release and pay his share of more than $101,000 in restitution. Daniel had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit credit card fraud.
According to court documents, Daniel was one of three men from New York who traveled to Maine and New Hampshire last year and used counterfeit American Express cards at Walmart and other stores, including stores in Biddeford, Farmington and Waterville.
One of Daniel’s accomplices has been sentenced and the other is awaiting sentencing, according to federal court documents.
Shaheem Shaw of Brooklyn was given a seven-month sentence last November. Kenny Deras of Bronx, who pleaded guilty earlier, is scheduled to be sentenced in July.
According to federal prosecutors, Daniel instructed Deras to drive to various stores and told Shaw to enter them to make purchases with bogus cards.
The fraud was discovered in April of last year, when Shaw used a phony American Express card bearing an existing account number and attempted to buy five $1,000 Walmart gift cards and an iPod touch at the Biddeford Walmart. Surveillance video showed a man matching his description exiting a black sedan and entering the store.
A Walmart employee, who was aware the store recently had been the victim of fraudulent transactions involving gift cards, contacted her manager, who contacted the authorities.
When police confronted Shaw and said they were investigating a fraud complaint, Shaw said he had requested five $100 gift cards, which the clerk told police was not the case. He provided police with a New York license and said he was in town for a business conference. He also said he had visited the same store several days before and was staying at a Hampton Inn, though he could not recall which one. He said was was dropped off at the store by a business associate, who left to get dinner.
Shaw then claimed he planned to pay cash for the gift cards and showed police several $100 bills in his wallet. Biddeford police officer Edward Dexter spotted an American Express credit card in his wallet and asked to see it. When he compared it to his own, he noted that Shaw’s card felt thinner and that the 800 number on the back was missing a digit.
The officer contacted the credit card company, which confirmed the account number existed but belonged to a Washington state company and had been used fraudulently around New England. Dexter arrested Shaw and during an inventory of Shaw’s personal property, turned up other bogus credit cards.
A subsequent investigation by the U.S. Secret Service found that account number from Washington alone had been used to rack up about $70,000 in fraudulent charges and that another account number the group used had more than $20,000.
The day after Shaw’s arrest, the black sedan was spotted at a hotel in New Hampshire. Having probable cause to believe the car was connected to the Biddeford crime, the Secret Service stopped it in Massachusetts and obtained permission to search it.
Inside were two new laptops and several iPods, partially destroyed American Express cards made out in Shaw’s name, five Walmart gift cards, 10 retailer gift cards and a rental receipt for the car — which Deras was driving at the time — indicated that it was rented by Shaw.