A bank employee who allegedly used his computer terminal at work to defraud 25 people of more than $185,000 in credit card cash advances, was charged along with his girlfriend yesterday with fraud in a criminal complaint filed in Baltimore's federal court.
In the end, it was the computer -- the tool that made the alleged fraud possible -- that helped uncover the scheme.
Kurt G. S. Matthews of Silver Spring was charged with fraud, embezzlement and misapplication by a bank employee.
His girlfriend, Portia White, was charged with aiding and abetting in the fraud.
An affidavit filed with the complaint in U.S. District Court alleged that Mr. Matthews, an employee of the Chevy Chase Bank collections department in Buckeystown, changed the addresses of legitimate credit card customers to new addresses that he and Ms. White set up at apartments or post offices boxes they rented.
Once an address change had been made, an additional credit card was requested and sent to the new address. The cards were then used for cash advances.
The losses for each account ranged from $2,550 to more than $25,000.
Bank officials investigating the fraudulent address changes found Mr. Matthews' electronic "fingerprint" in internal computer logs. The logs indicated that he had been looking at each of the accounts on his own terminal just before the address changes were made.
They also found that Mr. Matthews had been looking at the accounts as fraudulent purchases were being made, apparently to monitor their progress.
He was responsible only for delinquent accounts, and as the alteredaccounts were all in good standing, he had no legitimate reason to be looking at them, the affidavit said.
One of the fraud victims said he learned his credit card was being illegally used when the bank called him to say that he had exceeded his credit limit.
"They called me on the phone and said 'Why don't you pay your bill?' " said Arthur Alberding Sr., 68, of Hyattsville. "I asked, 'What is the bill?' They said, 'It's $13,000-plus.' I said, 'You're out of your mind, somebody's ripping me off!' "
Knowing that he only had a balance of $176, Mr. Alberding asked to speak to the bank security office.
"I asked them what the hell was going on," said Mr. Alberding, himself a retired credit manager. "The first thing that happens is that theyimply you did something wrong. 'Who did you lend your card to? Where did you lose your card?' Those kinds of questions."
He later learned that two purchases, both in excess of $400, had been made with the card at a Hyattsville mall.
Then three cash advances were made in Miami, two for $5,000 and one for $3,000.
Mr. Alberding is concerned that the major cash advances never raised a flag, especially because he had never run up his credit that much before. After his experience, he decided he would lend the bank a bit of his expertise, as well as a piece of his mind.
"I sent a letter to the CEO of the credit card company speaking to the fact that I thought that their procedures for preventing fraud were lousy," he said.