The crook had a plan and the equipment but lacked an accomplice. So he turned to a high-tech tool, police say: Facebook and Instagram.
Adrian Liggins, 19, of North Lauderdale, Fla., is in jail on fraud charges and police are deciding whether to charge the 18-year-old woman who bit on the social media offer.
Police say by the time the two were done, the credit card-skimming operation extended from the Coral Springs McDonald’s, where the woman worked, to Sawgrass Mills, Coconut Creek and Pennsylvania.
In return for $260, the woman, described by police as a “straight-A honors student at Coral Springs High School,” confessed she used a skimmer provided by Liggins to grab the card information from about 20 customers on each of her shifts.
One of the McDonald’s customers got an alert from her credit card company two days after having visited the McDonald’s that a couple had tried to use her card to buy shoes at Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise.
The store declined the charge, so the pair — one identified by police as Liggins — tried four other cards before leaving the store. The female suspect has not been identified and is at large.
Police say someone also tried to fraudently use card information in Coral Springs, Coconut Creek and Pennsylvania.
Liggins was in court Wednesday and ordered held on $25,000 bond.
“This appears to be going across state lines and appears to be a rather large operation you’re involved in,” Broward Judge John “Jay” Hurley told Liggins. “It doesn’t appear to be one incident of poor judgment. It looks like a scheme, frankly.”
The female accomplice told police she met “Adrian” on Facebook and Instagram. Soon, he asked her if she wanted to make some money, she told police, and Liggins gave her a portable skimmer. She told police she used it during her shifts at the drive-thru window at the McDonald’s at 7751 W. Sample Road.
According to police, surveillance video at the McDonald’s captured the employee pulling a small black device from her front pocket and swiping the cards of several customers, then running the cards through the cash register’s reader.
“[She] made a very bad decision,” said Coral Springs Sgt. Carla Kmiotek. “But luckily, when contacted by law enforcement, she became cooperative.”
Police were led to Liggins by the same social media they say he used.
Detectives looking at Liggins’ Instagram account spotted a photo of his high school diploma with his full name on it. They also retrieved cellphone texts between the McDonald’s employee and Liggins discussing payment and how to use the skimmer.
Recruiting accomplices through social media could be risky for a criminal if the unknown person immediately reports them, Kmiotek said.
“I’m sure it’s not new, but this is the first one I’ve seen,” she said. “[Fraud cases are] very common [but] their tactics are constantly changing.”
Police monitored an April 30 meeting between Liggins and the fast-food worker in which he again supplied her with a skimming device, the report said. He again met with the woman on Monday, police said, when he gave her another skimming machine and took back the device he had given her during their last meeting.
Liggins was arrested Tuesday. Police executed a search warrant and found more than 70 items in his home, including skimmers, victims’ stolen identities and computers, police said.
“It is evident that the card number was sold to other suspects,” the police report said.
And on Wednesday, the judge banned Liggins from using social media.
Authorities urge anyone who has information on this case or may be a victim to contact Coral Springs Detective Robert Ames at 954-346-1281.
©2014 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)