Investigators with the U.S. Secret Service allege the servers were working for a larger fraud ring and were using electronic devices to “skim” the credit card numbers of customers they served at the restaurant. The devices were handed off to others, and the stolen numbers were used to make fake credit cards and later used to buy gift cards and merchandise in the Washington area, according to court records in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
Federal officials became aware of the scheme in April of last year, when Citibank investigators reported numerous fraudulent charges on cards that had been used at the Cheesecake Factory at 5345 Wisconsin Ave. in Friendship Heights, just south of the Maryland line. Because servers at the restaurant have to swipe a server card unique to them before processing a credit card, investigators were able to narrow the transactions to three servers, according to court documents.
Secret Service agents interviewed two servers, identified in court documents only by their initials because they are cooperating with the investigation, who said they were recruited by Nicole L. Ward, another server at the restaurant. Ward allegedly provided the servers with “skimmers” to capture the credit card numbers and would then hand off the devices to two men, known only as “Slim” and “G.”
Investigators also interviewed Ward, in November at another District restaurant, and say in court documents that she admitted her role.
“Nicole Ward stated that ‘Slim’ had approached her after work one day about a potential scheme to earn some extra money,” wrote Special Agent Nathan Fleisher. “Nicole Ward stated that ‘Slim’ had provided her with a skimmer in order to capture credit card account numbers” and that they worked together for about a month.