York Investigators Charge Philly Man with Fraud in Cigarette Scheme

June 29th, 2012 by Kim Lenz

Chernoh Amadu Bah (photo courtesy Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail)

A 25-year-old Philadelphia man is being held at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail after York County investigators arrested him in the theft and use of multiple credit card numbers allegedly stolen from a York business.

Chernoh Amadu Bah was arrested June 5 in Newport News after York investigators received a tip he’d be in town, allegedly to recruit people to make purchases using stolen credit card information. He faces seven counts of credit card theft/fraud and is being held without bond after a hearing Wednesday. Additional charges are pending, and more arrests are anticipated, police said.

York-Poqouson Sheriff’s spokesman Mike Russell explained the circumstances that began in May with the theft of numerous credit card numbers from a York County business and led to the investigation and arrest.

Someone remotely accessed a local business’ computer system and stole credit card information that belonged to that business’ customers. The stolen credit card information was then transferred to the magnetic strips of gift cards, which were used to purchase cigarettes from convenience, grocery and drug stores throughout Virginia and 13 other states as far away as California. Investigators believe the cigarettes purchased were being taken to New York for resale.

At 30 cents per pack, Virginia has the lowest state cigarette excise tax in the U.S. By comparison, New York’s per-pack tax is $4.35 per pack, the highest in the nation. A local tax pushes the per-pack state and local tax in New York City to $5.85. That’s according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a group that advocates for “public policies that prevent kids from smoking, help smokers quit and protect everyone from secondhand smoke.”

Investigators have recovered numerous gift cards that are loaded with stolen credit card information, as well as a computer containing the software necessary to place credit card information on a gift card’s magnetic strip. A thumb drive that contained stolen credit card information was also recovered.

The Sheriff’s Office is not releasing the name of the business where the credit card information was compromised because there is no indication that any employees of the business were involved in the theft of the credit card information, Russell said in a press release. The banks who issued the compromised cards have notified their customers of the breach.

Assisting the Sheriff’s Office in the investigation are the U.S. Secret Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Secret Service, in addition to its protective role, investigates Treasury issues including fraud.

Because this is an ongoing investigation, anyone who believes they are a victim of this crime is asked to contact the York Poquoson Sheriff’s Office at 757-890-3630 if they have not already done so.

Anyone with information about this or any crime is asked to call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP.

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