Last December, when a man who gave his name as Theng F. "Eddie" Chia left the employ of Bambou restaurant in Greenwich before his two-week training period was up, he may have taken away more than his paycheck.
From Dec. 21 to 29, seven diners who used their American Express credit cards at the restaurant, located at the Mill complex in the Glenville section of town, had their card numbers and information removed by a "skimming" device, according to a Stamford police detective.
When members of the Connecticut Financial Crimes Task Force, a combination of various law enforcement agencies, approached the restaurant to ask about the transactions, the owner of the establishment did some research. The owner found that in each case, Chia was the employee who processed the transaction, Stamford police said. Police were still trying to find Chia.
How many others?
"It is unknown how many other non-American Express cardholders had their information compromised," Stamford Police Detective Heather Bozentko wrote in an arrest warrant affidavit for Kum Po Ng, a 56-year-old Malaysian man who police say is a member of the identity theft ring.
Unless otherwise noted, the following allegations come from Bozentko's application for an arrest warrant for Ng, who was arrested Nov. 13, when he tried to leave the country:
Information from the credit cards used at the restaurant was put into phony credit cards. Jewelry and high-priced Rolex watches were some of the items that members of the identity theft ring tried to purchase with the phony cards.
"A group of Asian males have been making fraudulent purchases at high end jewelry stores from Virginia up to New Jersey, Connecticut and including Massachusetts," Bozentko wrote. "There have been at least three different Asian—possibly Malaysian—males presenting cloned credit cards and matching identification as backup."
At one point in the past year, the Omega Boutique in Fairfax County, VA, had sold a watch priced at $6,200 to Ng, who used a credit card with a number that had been taken from a customer who dined at Greenwich's Bambou restaurant on Dec. 23, 2011.
Another suspect, in New Jersey
Millburn, NJ police have an active warrant they'd like to serve on Hung Bo Suen, 49, on charges he made a fraudulent purchase at the Omega Boutique in that community. Police say he was unsuccessful in using the phony card at one store, was successful at the one in Millburn, then was arrested at a third store by Paramus, NJ police.
According to the NorthJersey.com news website, Suen was accused of buying a $6,900 diamond engagement ring from one store, then going to another in Paramus and attempting to exchange the jewelry for a $7,650 watch. Suspicious employees at the Paramus store called police, who arrested Suen. He was later released without bond, and Millburn police are still looking for him.
Kum Po Ng, a hairdresser, came to the United States with his daughter on a tourist visa for a nine-day stay in October 2011. According to his visa, he worked at Fame Salon in Malaysia. Another document in his court files states that at some point he was a hairdresser for a shop in Pleasantville, NY.
Stamford police give his address as 827 56th St., Brooklyn, NY, while Darien police say his home address is 33 Bible St., Stamford.
On Oct. 17, 2011, the same month Ng arrived in the U.S., he was at David Harvey Jewelers, 955 Post Rd., Darien, trying to buy a Rolex watch priced at $7,500, according to a Darien police arrest warrant application. This was more than two months before credit card information was stolen at Bambou restaurant in Greenwich.
According to the Darien arrest warrant application: Ng had produced a Citi Business Visa Card to pay for the watch. The name on the card was not his own. Then he was asked for a driver's license to confirm his identification. Ng replied that he had left his license in his car and would go out to get it. He never returned.
According to Citibank, the company didn't use the number on the credit card.
Then on Jan. 7, the manager of the Ross Simmons jewelry store in the Stamford Town Center mall approached a city police officer who was working an "extra duty" job at the mall.
The manager reported a suspicious incident the day before in which a man who said he was Kum Po Ng tried to buy a $7,900 stainless steel GMT Master Rolex watch using an American Express credit card.
To confirm his identity, the man showed his Malaysian international driver's license which had a name and photo matching the customer. Nevertheless, the store manager was suspicious and told the customer she needed to call the credit card company to get an approval code for the purchase.
Ng said told her he was going to go outside for a cigarette and would come back shortly for his purchase. He never returned.
What the store manager found
American Express told the store manager that the name that matched that credit card number belonged to a different person. The credit card company said the card the manager was holding was cloned or counterfeited, with the information re-encoded onto a magnetic strip on the blank or counterfeit card she had.
Kum Po Ng does not have a valid American Express account, they told the store manager.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, a part of the Department of Homeland Security, had visa and travel information for Ng which confirmed that the man pictured on the driver's license left at the jewelry store is the same man shown in their documents, which include pictures from his entry into the United States and his visa.
Papers in motion
Early this year, Stamford police applied for and recieved a warrant for the arrest of Ng, charging him with third-degree larceny, second-degree identification theft, illegal use of a credit card and credit card theft. On March 6, the warrant was signed by a judge.
In early January, Stamford police also distrbuted a flyer which asked for information on Ng and had a picture of him. Darien police showed the flyer to the owner of David Harvey Jewelers, who identified Ng as the man in the store in October. Police were shown the card Ng left at the store and a store video which showed Ng attempting to buy the watch.
Notice of Detainer
At some point earlier this year, a hold was put on Ng's passport so that if he ever tried to leave the country, he would be detained by any federal border officials who identified him.
That's what happened on Nov. 13 at Terminal 7 of JFK Airport, according to a "Notice of Detainer" document in Ng's court file. Instead of leaving on flight CX 841, Ng was detained at 8:30 a.m.
On Nov. 21, Ng was formally charged by Stamford police at their headquarters. While there, he was also charged by Darien police, who presented him with an arrest warrant signed that day by a judge. Darien police charged Ng with illegal use of a credit card and criminal attempt to commit third-degree larceny.
For his appearance Friday, Nov. 23, in state Superior Court in Stamford, Ng asked for a Cantonese interpreter (although Ng's ethnicity is not confirmed, many Malaysians are ethnic Chinese), according to court documents. Ng was given a new court date of Nov. 30, with an interpreter, at which time he is expected to enter a plea.
"The case is ongoing and involves several other suspects," Stamford Detective Bozentko wrote in the arrest warrant affidavit. "Investigators are still trying to find the suspect who skimmed the cards at Bambou restaurant."