Hawkins woman indicted in major credit card fraud scheme

Matthew Lane • Feb 28, 2018 at 8:00 PM

GREENEVILLE — A Church Hill woman is facing federal wire fraud charges after she allegedly made fake credit and debit cards during a two-year period, then used them to purchase $55,000 in airline tickets for herself and more than 60 other people.

Leslie Danielle Bethea was named in a 34-count sealed indictment in U.S. District Court in Greeneville. The indictment was filed on Feb. 13 and unsealed earlier this week. Bethea appeared in court on Wednesday for a detention hearing.

Bethea is currently free on bond. A jury trial is scheduled for May 22.

According to the indictment, Bethea is charged with 28 counts of wire fraud, aggravated identify theft, conspiracy, trafficking and unlawful possession of counterfeit credit cards.

Prosecutors say that from January 2016 until the present day, Bethea stole the personal information of various people, made fake credit and debit cards and used them to make purchases at American Airlines, retail stores and restaurants.

The indictment outlines the alleged scheme as follows:

— Bethea purchased blank plastic credit and debit cards with embedded magnetic strips through the Internet.

— She then illegally obtained personal information (names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers) from various people.

— Using an embossing machine, Bethea embossed the fronts of the fake cards with the names of people who would later present the cards to merchants.

— The magnetic strips on the reverse side of the cards were then re-coded with legitimate card numbers.

This allowed Bethea and others to make credit and debit cards that were not immediately rejected by merchants, the indictment states.

In 2017, from January to May, Bethea allegedly used the fake cards to purchase more than $55,000 in tickets from American Airlines. Prosecutors say the fraud involved 230 transactions for 63 people, including Bethea.

The flights were arranged online through various travel websites to more than a dozen major cities.

Prosecutors say Bethea also obtained information from 30 legitimate Morgan Chase bank customers, using it in 175 transactions to buy $45,000 in goods and services. Merchants included hotels, restaurants, retail and furniture stores and service businesses, like travel and nails.

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