Diner employee helps police bust counterfeit credit card operation

by: Andrew Doud Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Police recently discovered where thieves were using stolen credit card numbers to make hundreds of new cards.

It started when an employee at an uptown diner noticed something unusual.

"It could’ve happened to me," Justin Johnson said. "I could have been one of those people that they were stealing from."

In June, Johnson was working at the Midnight Diner in uptown when he was confronted with an unusual problem. He said two men were in the restaurant that night, got up and walked out, but left behind a bag.

In that bag, Johnson said there were hundreds of credit cards.

"They were from all different kind of banks. But what was weird is they all has the same name on it," Johnson said.

He said the two men eventually came back and demanded the bag.

Police happened to be at the restaurant investigating a separate incident, and Johnson pointed the two men out.

Police arrested Arnold Celeste and Jamara Johnson. They were charged with financial transaction card forgery.

A little more than a month later, police went to an apartment to serve a warrant unrelated to the stolen credit cards. When they got there, they said they found materials inside used to make stolen credit cards and cards with Arnold Celeste's name on them.

Police arrested Donnell McCaskill then and charged him with forgery of financial transaction card.

Police said there are several ways crooks can get credit card numbers.

Once they have them, they use a machine to punch them into a new card and reprogram a magnetic strip.

In the case of Celeste, police said it's common for criminals to use their names on the new cards in case they are asked for their identification.

They often use the stolen card numbers to purchase gift cards. That way, when the account is closed by the person it was stolen from, the thief already has the money.