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Prosecutors: N.J. Man Skimmed Credit Card Info, Used It To Buy Alcohol For His Nightclub

HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Police in New Jersey have issued a warning about credit card skimming at gas stations – after a man was accused of skimming credit cards and making fraudulent cards to buy alcohol for his nightclub.

As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported Friday, buying gas with your credit card could cost you more than an extra 10 cents per gallon if you are not careful. Customers in New Jersey are not allowed to pump their own gas, and thus, experts said the risk of identity theft is even higher than average there.

And some drivers admitted that that they are not always careful.

“Sometimes I look back to make sure I’m swiping it, not doing anything else with it,” said Alexa Anderson of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.

In fact, somebody has been doing something else with credit cards at New Jersey gas stations. Police in Bergen County have arrested a man and woman in what they said was an ongoing investigation into credit card skimming at gas stations.

The crimes occurred in four North Jersey towns – Glen Rock, Lodi, Hasbrouck Heights, and Clifton.

Attendants were supplied with portable card scanners by Kenny Frias, 43, of Lodi, authorities alleged. The Bergen County Prosecutor’s office claimed Frias stole credit card numbers and used them to make fraudulent credit cards and used them to buy alcohol throughout New Jersey.

The alcohol was then sold at the Phebe Night Club and Restaurant, at 646 1/2 Newark Ave. in Jersey City, which Frias operates, prosecutors said.

Frias was charged with one count each of fraudulent use of a credit card, with additional counts of money laundering and trafficking in the personal identification of another. He was ordered held on $100,000 bond.

Frias’ girlfriend — Jeanessa Torres, 25 – was also arrested and was charged with one count of possession of an unlawful weapon. She was ordered held on $2,500 bond.

Kenny Frias, Jeanessa Torres

Kenny Frias (left) is charged with skimming credit cards and using fraudulent information to buy liquor for his nightclub. His girlfriend, Jeanessa Torres, was arrested with him. (Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office)

A search warrant of Frias’ home and place of business uncovered a credit card reading and writer device, fraudulent credit cards, false ID, and more than $75,000 in cash.

Prosecutors as of Friday were still looking for two others who made fraudulent purchases in Glen Rock in connection with the scheme. They were seen on surveillance camera, prosecutors said.

N.J. Credit Card Skimming Suspects

Surveillance images of two men wanted in a credit card skimming operation at gas stations in New Jersey. (Credit: Bergen County Prosecutor’s office)

Drivers gassing up along Route 17 said they know they are vulnerable.

“I watched him put it into the machine, but after that point, I kind of just talked to my friend who was in the car,” said Ysable DelaRiva of Spring Valley.

“I guess the only way you really can (protect yourself) is by using cash,” added Anderson.

Experts said online bank alerts and checking your accounts frequently can also help, but they tended to agree that cash is the safest option.

“You’re much less likely to get mugged for the cash in your pocket than you are to become a victim of a credit card scam so use cash; use gift cards whenever possible,” said credit expert Paul Oster.

One local woman said she thinks her husband was victimized.

“The only thing he really used it for was gas,” said Esterina Anderson of Hasbrouck Heights. But a charge turned up for $8,000 from a Nordstrom’s in Texas.

“I thought he had bought me something really nice,” she said.

Unfortunately, he had not. But Anderson got the charge reversed because she checks the account frequently.

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