Oakland Rental Car Agent Used Credit Card Info on $300,000 Buying Spree

A former Avis Rent a Car employee at Oakland International Airport and a second suspect were indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on charges that they stole credit card information from customers to make nearly $300,000 in online purchases of airline tickets and hotel rooms.

Mark Richardson, 26, of Oakland, who was an Avis employee, and Elijah Baker Jr., 38, of Pittsburg were indicted on charges of conspiracy, access-device fraud and aggravated identity theft for making unauthorized purchases through Expedia.com, Travelocity and Hotels.com from 2002 to 2005.

Arrest warrants have been issued for both men, who could not be reached for comment Thursday. Richardson accessed the Avis computer system and printed computerized rental contracts of Avis customers that contained personal information, including names, addresses, dates of birth, telephone numbers and driver's license numbers, authorities said. Richardson handwrote customer access-card information, also obtained from the computer, on the documents, the indictment said.

Richardson then gave the information to Baker, who used the data to buy airline ticket and hotel rooms, logging on to the Internet at various Kinko's copy-store locations in Northern California, the indictment said.

Baker paid Richardson $10 for each printout, authorities said. The two met about twice a month at a gas station near the airport, a hotel sports bar and an Emeryville hotel to exchange the material, the indictment said.

Baker made up e-mail addresses to complete the online transactions and sold the airline tickets and hotel rooms to others for less than the purchase prices, authorities said. Baker also sold personal data of Avis customers to individuals known to him as "Big" and "Grey Fox" so they could buy airline tickets and sell them, the indictment said.

From January 2002 to May 2005, the personal data of 606 Avis customers were used fraudulently to conduct 565 transactions through Expedia.com, 143 transactions through Hotels.com and 96 transactions through Travelocity, totaling 804 attempted and actual purchases, the indictment said. The total loss to the three companies was at least $299,703, authorities said.

Avis officials did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.



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