The director of operations of a north suburban restaurant on Monday said he doesn't believe any customers were victimized by a manager charged on allegations he stole identities to pay for his fixation with Walt Disney World.
Alexander Pera, 26, of Chicago was arrested July 2 and charged with aggravated identity theft, identity theft and money laundering, according to Lincolnshire police. Authorities said he took 15 trips to theme park resorts in a four-month period under false names obtained during his employment with Eddie Merlot's restaurant.
"We are very sad to learn of this isolated incident at this one location," restaurant spokesman Bruce Kraus told NBC Chicago on Monday. "Based on our preliminary investigation, we do not believe that any customer’s purchase of food or beverage was involved in the incident. Rest assured we will be going above and beyond to rectify the issue with any affected patron. We will continue to cooperate with authorities and remain vigilant."
Police, however, allege Pera stole the identities of at least 50 people, both customers and former employees, for a total of more than $50,000 during his time as manager of the establishment. Much of the money was spent on 15 different Walt Disney World Resort stays in five months, and two cruises aboard Disney Cruise Line this past spring, a statement from police said.
Pera facilitated the crimes by providing fraudulent information to the Disney Company and the airlines when making travel plans.
Police said his reservations would be made using false names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, and they were paid for with fraudulently obtained gift and pre-paid credit cards, purchases with stolen credit card numbers and cash.
Pera, of the 3800 block of North Ottawa Avenue, was arrested on his way to work and police found fake IDs, gift cards and a loaded handgun in his possession, a statement from police said.
In bond court on July 3, Judge Raymond Collins ordered Pera held in the Lake County Jail on a $500,000 bond.
The arrest was the culmination of a joint investigation started in late May by the Orange County (Fla.) Sheriffs office, Lincolnshire police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, police said.
Eddie Merlot’s was cooperating with the investigation as police sought other victims. Anyone who dined at the restaurant and later had their credit card compromised or was the victim of ID theft should call police at 847-913-2349.