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Court filings reveal scope of identity theft scheme

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The recent search of a sport-utility vehicle revealed more than $9,900 in receipts, 80 credit cards and a lengthy list of merchandise, all tied to a sweeping identity theft investigation linking the Huntington Mall with Charleston and New England.

Three of the four men charged appeared Thursday in Cabell County Magistrate Court, while their suspected ringleader awaited transfer to a federal court in Connecticut. That’s where authorities charge Mei Bao Lu with leading a group that tallied $53,500 in unauthorized purchases across three states.

The Connecticut filings describe Lu as a “godfather” or “criminal boss,” who sends individuals to serve as waiters and waitresses at restaurants, where those accomplices steal consumer credit card information that is passed onto others directed to buy items at Lu’s behest.

 Such operations lean upon pocket skimming devices and unsuspecting customers like Anissa Powell, whose dinner with her fiance opened her bank account to unimaginable fraud.

“My stomach just bottomed out,” she said recalling her initial reaction. “That’s a call you don’t want to get because that’s your financial security.”

The Barboursville Police Department counts Powell among at least three victims, all of whom visited the same Charleston-area restaurant. Each learned days later of somebody using their account to rack up fraudulent purchases at the Huntington Mall…

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