Feds arrest two in complex Charlotte credit-card fraud scheme

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Federal agents claim two people gained access to numerous people's private information in the Charlotte area and used it to get credit cards in their names.

An affidavit alleged one suspect went as far as to snag the credit cards out of mailboxes when they arrived on a northeast Charlotte street.

Prosecutors charged Justin Pettway and Waundra Bittle with mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft violations last week.

Bittle was arrested and made an initial court appearance Wednesday. Authorities arrested Pettway Monday.

The alleged scheme involves a Rock Hill business identified in court documents only as "P.A."

Investigators said the debt collection business gained access to "skiptracing" services provided by another company, TransUnion Risk and Alternative Data Solutions, Inc (TRADS).

The service allowed "P.A." to input a residential address and gain personal information, such as a Social Security number, for the people at the address.

A U.S. postal inspector who filed the affidavit said Pettway and Bittle both had accounts through that service. Documents do not explicitly say that either were employees of "P.A."

Records, obtained by federal agents, show that Pettway and Bittle ran queries on identity-theft victims shortly before fraudulent credit cards were opened up in their names.

Investigators said P.A.'s skiptracing account was used to run a total of 10,000 queries on people.

In a court hearing Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Malley said that TRADS had been cooperative in providing the government records in its investigation.

However, he said the company had not been as helpful in ensuring the 10,000 people queried are not affected by fraud.

Pettway is accused of obtaining at least 80 fraudulent credit cards in the names of victims in the Charlotte area, an affidavit says.

A separate affidavit filed with Bittle's charges said she was connected to "several" fraudulent accounts.

Surveillance of Pettway

According to court records, A U.S. postal inspector was watching the afternoon of Dec. 12 as Pettway retrieved a credit card he had fraudulent applied for from an unsuspecting resident's mailbox.

Agents said Pettway applied for cards in the names of people residing at several addresses on Katelyn Drive.

One alleged victim spoke with Eyewitness News on the condition his name not be used.

"I still feel pretty vulnerable right now," the man said. "It makes me feel not as safe as I thought."

Tearful court appearance

Bittle made her first court appearance Wednesday. O'Malley said she was arrested after dropping her three young children off at day care.

In court, Bittle hung her head and wiped away tears as the charges against her were read U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler set bond under several conditions. Among those conditions, Bittle will not be allowed to open up financial accounts or be employed by a debt collection company.

Pettway made his first appearance Tuesday, court records show. He is scheduled for a detention hearing Thursday.