Smith & Wollensky's Prosecutors: Syndicate involved network of workers at six high-end restaurants
Waiters at some of New York’s swankiest eateries were part of a criminal crew that stole credit card information to create counterfeit cards — and then racked up some $600,000 in purchases, prosecutors revealed Friday.
Led by Luis Damian “DJ” Jacas, the crooks equipped waiters at Smith & Wollensky, The Capital Grille, Wolfgang's Steakhouse and JoJo — and at two restaurants outside the city — with electronic “scimmers” to steal the info from at least 50 customers, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said.
Then Jacas used a “network of shoppers” to go on shopping sprees at high-end Manhattan stores like Chanel, Neiman Marcus, Cartier, Hermes of Paris, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, Waldmann's, London Jewelers, Burberry, Jimmy Choo, Lord & Taylor, prosecutors said.
They even used the phony American Express cards to refuel at Starbucks and also hit stores in Westchester County, Long Island, Boston, Chicago and Florida.
The ill-gotten goods were then fenced to “complicit customers” for cash, prosecutors said.
“The high-end targets of this case make it notable, but disturbingly this case is far from unique,” said District Attorney Cy Vance, whose 18-month joint investigation with the Secret Service ended Thursday with the arrests of 27 people.
The suspects were hit with 172 counts of felony enterprise corruption, conspiracy, grand larceny and other charges.
One of the key players in the ring was Brian Torrey, 34, of Bronxville, a longtime Smith & Wollensky waiter.
“Over 60 credit cards were stolen by Mr. Torrey,” Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Kern said.
Two of Jacas’ alleged fences, Eric Brahms, 42, and his wife, Emily, 30, both of Manhattan, were busted at Mt. Sinai Hospital while she was in labor, sources said.
Another alleged member of the ring, 46-year-old Anthony Coffarro, of Brooklyn, was apparently rousted from his bed and arrived at his arraignment Friday dressed in long johns.
The crimes charged in the indictments occurred between April 2010 and November 2011.
Jacas, 41, of Manhattan, also had phony drivers licenses made in the names of the customers whose credit card information was stolen, prosecutors said.
Jacas “oversaw and managed all aspects of the criminal operation,” prosecutors said. He directed his “shoppers” to buy watches, handbags, wallets and other easilly-fenced items.
In addition to the luxury items, investigators who raided the crews’ storage unit at Manhattan Mini Storage on East 62nd St. found a stash of expensive wine, more than $1 million in cash, the skimming devices and the equipment used to make the bogus credit cards and drivers licenses.
The American Express card holders victimized by the gang were not stuck with the bill, prosecutors said.