An Oswego County man faces up to 15 years in federal prison for a multistate credit card scheme that ended with his arrest in January in Watertown.
Nathan L. Howard, 25, of 11 Beaverdam Brook Drive, Williamstown, pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, to four counts contained in a grand jury indictment alleging that he made counterfeit credit cards and used the phony cards to make purchases. According to a plea agreement filed in the matter, total losses exceeded $250,000.
Mr. Howard and Ashley N. Perlmutter, 24, same address, were charged with carding, a practice in which a hand-held skimming device is used to capture data from a credit card and a counterfeit card is produced using the data.
According to a federal complaint, Mr. Howard was a waiter at a chain restaurant in Thornton, Colo., where he was known as Daniel Howard and had provided a Florida drivers license as proof of his identity. After the restaurant received several complaints from customers alleging their credit cards had been compromised, it was determined that Mr. Howard had been their waiter.
Officers obtained a warrant to search Mr. Howards vehicle in January 2012 and allegedly found a hand-held skimmer and a Florida drivers license in the name of Robert Allen Banks, with Mr. Howards photo on it. Mr. Howard agreed to cooperate with the investigation and was not arrested at that point, but investigators later learned he had provided them with a fake local address.
A month later, customers who had been served by Mr. Howard at the Colorado restaurant complained that their credit card accounts were being used fraudulently in Reno, Nev. A warrant was issued for Mr. Howards arrest on charges of money laundering, theft, forgery, identity theft and possession of identity theft tools.
The two were arrested Jan. 2 in Watertown after going on a pre-Christmas shopping spree at area businesses. According to the plea agreement filed Monday, Mr. Howard admitted that on Dec. 21, he used a fake debit card to withdraw $509 from a KeyBank ATM in the town of Watertown, and to make a $34 purchase at Buffalo Wild Wings, 1290 Arsenal St., a $1,137 purchase at Walmart Supercenter on Route 3 and a $452 purchase at Target, also on Route 3.
He also admitted that on Jan. 2, he possessed a card encoder that he used to encode 560 access devices containing other peoples bank account and personal information. The access devices had been issued by 88 separate financial institutions, according to the agreement. He also admitted that he possessed a handgun after previously having been convicted of a crime.
According to the plea agreement, Mr. Howard faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison on the top count of the indictment related to transactions conducted with an access device issued to another person, although a judge also could pronounce consecutive sentences on the lesser counts. Sentencing was set for Dec. 20. Mr. Howard was placed in federal custody.
Federal charges were dismissed against Miss Perlmutter in February. She pleaded guilty in May in Jefferson County Court to petit larceny and third-degree identity theft, admitting that on Dec. 21, she stole property from Target on Route 3 by acquiring the property while assuming a name other than her own. She subsequently was sentenced to time served at the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building.