HONOLULU (KHON2) — A former food server accused of stealing credit card information from his customers will plead guilty in federal court on Tuesday. Prosecutors say Walter Padua conspired with another man and a woman to skim the credit cards and make purchases.
Padua’s attorney says he was addicted to drugs at the time. So in exchange to pay for the drugs, he agreed to skim the credit cards with a device provided by the drug dealer.
“He would swipe the card onto the device,” said attorney Megan Kau. “At the end of his shift, he would meet with his drug dealer and give the device to his drug dealer.”
Also indicted, Jeffrey Rees, who according to court documents conspired with Michelle Yi in making false credit cards with the information provided by Padua. The incidents happened in 2017. It’s not clear why the legal process took this long. Kau says at the time Padua, did not know what Rees and Yi were doing with the information.
“Eventually, my client found out he was printing those numbers onto actual cards and then taking them to stores like Apple and Best Buy and pharmacies to purchase items,” she said.
Kau says Padua will plead guilty to conspiracy to commit access device fraud which is a felony that will likely put him in federal prison for about three years.
Experts say the best way to avoid getting your credit card information stolen at a restaurant is to not to allow your server to walk away with your card when you pay.
“At many restaurants like my restaurants, you can pay at the register and actually swipe the card at the counter yourself,” said Tom Jones of the Hawaii Restaurant Association. “So that’s a foolproof way of making sure you maintain control of your card.”
Because of the pandemic, many eateries are implementing touchless transactions. Jones, who owns four restaurants, says there are now safe ways to pay by phone through a secure third party website.
“You can also order your menu item on your phone and pay on the phone, and that’s becoming increasingly popular as well,” said Jones.
Experts say most importantly, make sure you check your credit card statement regularly and report anything suspicious.