3 BofA Workers Arrested in Credit-Card Fraud Case
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Three Bank of America workers were arrested Thursday in connection with an alleged credit-card theft ring operating out of the bank’s Southern California credit card center in suburban Pasadena, authorities said.
It is the third time in two years that BofA’s Credit Card Center in Pasadena has been the focus of investigations of credit-card scams. But it is the first time that BofA employees have been implicated.
The arrests also come while BofA’s parent, San Francisco-based BankAmerica Corp., is still suffering from a tarnished image in the wake of an alleged mortgage-securities fraud.
BofA was escrow agent for the bad securities, and BankAmerica was forced to take a $95 million writeoff in the fourth quarter last year to cover its losses in the deal.
Secret Service spokesman Al Joaquin said credit cards and confidential card information on about 10,000 bank customers was allegedly stolen and sold by the trio.
But he said it was impossible at this time to accurately estimate how much money was charged on the cards.
″We simply can’t tell without tabulating all 10,000 accounts,″ Joaquin said. ″It could range anywhere from $1,000 to $2 million or $3 million.″
Joaquin said the stolen information would be embossed on blank credit cards, which would be used until the credit limit was reached.
Joaquin identified those arrested as Larry Courtney, 32, and Otis Lee Richard, 23, both of Pasadena, and Paris Rene Burden, 22, of Altadena.
All are employees of the bank’s credit card center.
The three were held for investigation of fraud and forgery, Joaquin said.
A fourth bank employee, who wasn’t identified, was taken into custody by the Secret Service but later released.
BofA spokesman Ron Owens said all four have been suspended pending an internal investigation. He said all four were involved in the production of credit cards and none were managers.
Owens also said action had been taken to tighten security at the credit card center.
″Any time there is an incident involving the control or operation of security, it is fully investigated and steps are taken to prevent a repeat,″ he said.
He also said the the bank is cooperating with a Secret Service probe.
The investigation has been under way since January when the Secret Service learned through an informant that Burden allegedly was selling credit-card information, Joaquin said.
In meetings with Burden and Richard, federal agents allegedly purchased credit cards and confidential information about card holders, Joaquin said.
In a separate meeting with Courtney, Secret Service agents allegedly purchased a reel of BofA microfilm containing confidential information up to 10,000 people who have credit limits of more than $5,000 on their cards, he said.
In a court affidavit filed to get the arrest warrants, Secret Service Agent Joseph Saitta said Courtney ″has been suspected of illegal activities involving bank information in the past.″
Joaquin declined to elaborate. But he said, ″Based on information we have, we expect it (the credit-card scam) has been going on for quite some time, possibly a year or two.″
He said there is no evidence that those arrested Thursday were involved with two other cases last year in which 10 people were arrested.