A Chicago man pleaded guilty Tuesday to organizing an ATM "skimming" ring that stole more than $200,000 from diners using bank or credit cards at restaurants and attractions across the city, including Wrigley Field.
Joseph Woods, 32, entered a guilty plea to felony conspiracy to commit a financial crime before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane Cannon, who sentenced him to five years in prison, according to the Illinois Attorney General’s office, which prosecuted the case.
Woods organized an identity theft and bank fraud scheme which "skimmed" information from credit cards at several restaurants, including RL on the Magnificent Mile, Taco Bell, McDonald’s and a food vendor operating at Wrigley Field, according to a release from the attorney general’s office. More than $200,000 was stolen using the victims’ bank and credit cards.
Woods allegedly paid employees of the restaurants and eateries to skim customer credit card information using a small card reader provided by Woods. Employees would swipe customers’ cards, giving Woods access to account information, with which he created counterfeit credit cards and made phony purchases, prosecutors said.
Compromised in the scheme were accounts from Chase, U.S. Bank, Citibank, Harris Bank, American Express, Bank of America and Fifth Third Bank, all of which assisted in the investigation and notified potential victims.
Co-defendants have cases pending before Judge Cannon.
“Skimming operations are a growing threat to consumers, who usually aren’t aware they’ve been victimized in such a scheme,” Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan said. “That’s why this case serves as a good reminder to check credit card bills and financial statements regularly for unauthorized charges. Consumers should quickly report any suspect charges to their bank before more damage can be done.”