Organized crime snuffed out over $7 Waffle House tab in Pearl River

Organized crime snuffed out over $7 Waffle House tab in Pearl River

(WVUE) - Pearl River Police officers responding to an unpaid Waffle House bill have uncovered an interstate criminal organization involved in a sophisticated identity theft scheme.

In the early morning hours of Oct. 14, officers responded to a call at Waffle House about two males who had left without paying their $7 bill and had fled in a U-Haul van.

As those officers were taking the report, other officers on patrol spotted a U-Haul van in the parking lot of a local hotel. As they approached the van, one of the suspects, later identified as Richard Brown of Indiana, fled on foot. Officers were able to capture Stayshawn Stephens of California, who was behind the wheel.

With the help of Slidell Police and a K-9, Brown was found in a wooded area near Interstate 59 and was quickly apprehended. Police said further investigation uncovered several fake identification cards, counterfeit credit cards and credit card skimming devices, as well as a Waffle House receipt for $7.41.

"The first guy we arrested, he didn't really say much of it, but the second guy did say it was more of a dare. They were just playing around, and they dared each other to not pay the ticket," Lt. Tommy Benasco said.

The investigation revealed that a criminal organization was operating out of Los Angeles. Stephens and Brown were recruited and hired by another subject, and had flown into New Orleans from different states. Police said they rented the U-Haul in New Orleans East, where they are alleged to have driven to several area gas stations and installed credit card skimming devices in the gas pumps, stealing credit card account information. They would then upload the stolen information onto counterfeit credit cards to be used or sold by other individuals.

The investigation is ongoing, and the Pearl River Police Department is working with the U.S. Secret Service Financial Crimes Taskforce and other local agencies.

Stephens and Brown were taken to St. Tammany Parish Jail, where they were booked with the following:

Stayshawn D Stephens (DOB 2/21/1997) was charged with Louisiana Revised Statutes: 
14:67 Theft by Fraud 
14:56 Criminal Damage to Property 
32:415 Driving with a Suspended License, 
14:72.2 Monetary Instrument Abuse 
14:67.22 Fraudulently Acquiring Credit Cards 
14:67.16 Identity Theft 
14:71.1Bank Fraud 
14:72 Forgery

Richard A Brown (DOB 6/16/99) was charged with Louisiana Revised Statutes: 
14:67 Theft by Fraud
14:108 Resisting Arrest by Flight
14:34.2 Battery on a Police Officer
14:72.2 Monetary Instrument Abuse, 
14:67.16 Identity Theft 
14:71.1 Bank Fraud.

According to recent statistics, nearly thirteen million people fall victim to identity theft each year, and detectives recommend the following:

  • Everyone should get a credit check at least twice a year.
  • Make sure you always shred any financial documents before throwing them into the trash.
  • Never lose sight of your credit card or anyone who has your credit card.
  • Always look for skimmers or broken seals on ATMs and gas pumps before swiping your cards.

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