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July 7, 2011

Department of Justice

United States Attorney William C. Killian Eastern District of Tennessee


FORMER PH.D. STUDENT PLEADS GUILTY TO FRAUD AND IDENTITY THEFT OFFENSES

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Carlton A. Lewis, 25, of Lithonia, Georgia, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court to one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, three counts of access device fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Sentencing has been set for Nov. 3, 2011, before the Honorable Thomas W. Phillips, U.S. District Court Judge.

As set forth in the plea agreement, Lewis was involved in a conspiracy to unlawfully obtain and use the credit and debit card account information of other individuals. He provided credit and debit card skimming devices to waitresses working in restaurants across the southeastern United States. The waitresses would use those credit and debit card skimming devices to unlawfully obtain the credit and debit card account information of customers who provided their credit or debit cards as payment for their food and drink orders. After the waitresses had filled the credit and debit card skimming devices with unlawfully obtained credit and debit card account information, they returned the skimming devices to Lewis and others. The waitresses were paid by Lewis based on the volume of credit and debit card account information that they unlawfully obtained using the skimming devices. Lewis then uploaded the unlawfully obtained credit and debit card account information to his computer.

Lewis would purchase prepaid reloadable money cards from Walmart, and the numbers originally printed on those cards were removed using a washing process. New numbers and names were embossed on those prepaid money cards. He then transformed those prepaid money cards into counterfeit credit and debit cards by loading the unlawfully obtained account information onto the magnetic strip of the prepaid money cards using a credit and debit card re-encoding device. Lewis and others used the counterfeit credit and debit cards to purchase merchandise and gift cards that were often later sold to generate cash. On Mar. 25, 2011, Lewis and a codefendant traveled to Knoxville for the purpose of using counterfeit credit and debit cards to purchase merchandise at area retailers. Lewis’s criminal conduct was uncovered when counterfeit credit and debit cards, a credit and debit card re-encoding device, and a credit and debit card skimming device were found in his vehicle following a traffic stop performed by the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP).

"Identity theft and credit/financial fraud have become serious We, along with our law enforcement partners will utilize our vast resources to detect and prosecute those who let greed overcome their duty to obey federal law," said U. S. Attorney Bill Killian.

This investigation was led by the U. S. Secret Service, with assistance provided by THP. Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Bolitho represented the United States.

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