Police: Pizzeria owner made dough off customers' credit cards
Posted May 8, 2009 4:18 p.m. EDT
Updated May 8, 2009 6:50 p.m. EDT
Fayetteville, N.C. — Police said Friday that hundreds of customers at a Fayetteville pizza parlor might have had an extra slice taken out of their wallets by the restaurant's owner.
Mark Pinella, 37, the owner of the Dino's Pizza at 6107 Yadkin Road, was charged Thursday with identity theft, obtaining property by false pretense and operating a business without a license.
Investigators shut down the restaurant, and state Department of Revenue agents are poring over the financial records.
"He was using the credit card receipts that had the numbers on it, and he was going back and ringing you up three or four more times," said Detective Chris Cody of the Fayetteville Police Department. "Right now, we're looking at about $7,000."
The two other Dino's Pizza restaurants in Fayetteville are owned by other people and aren't involved in the alleged scam, police said.
Pinella catered mostly to soldiers, and business was so good that he posted a "help wanted" sign in the window.
"They were being sneaky," said Chris Jackson, who frequently ate at Pinella's restaurant. "Had I not been told to check, I would not have noticed."
Jackson, who always paid with his debit card, said he checked his bank statements only after a friend who is a police officer told him about the case.
"It was only $19.92, and they did that twice in the same week," he said. "I never eat (there) twice in the same week."
He said he was out of town on one date that he was billed for eating at the pizzeria.
Cody said the bogus credit card charges date to October, when Pinella bought the restaurant from the previous owner.
Police have identified 167 victims so far, and they urged anyone who ate at the pizzeria in the last six months to check their bank statements.
"Let's get him off the street. Let's not let him do it again," Jackson said.
Pinella also faces charges of conspiracy to traffic cocaine, conspiracy to traffic opium, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a stolen weapon. He has a previous conviction for indecent liberties with a minor.
The U.S. Secret Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting state and local officers in the investigation.