The U.S. Secret Service and Ste. Genevieve law enforcement officers are investigating a case involving stolen identities of approximately 200 victims who visited a local restaurant.
Investigators are certain that neither the restaurant – Sirros – nor its employees had anything to do with the theft.
“No employees nor the owner is being looked at for anything in this case. We’re absolutely sure of that,” said Major Jason Schott of the Ste. Genevieve County Sheriff’s Department. “The owner is as much a victim as the people holding the stolen credit cards.”
The means of obtaining credit card information from the restaurant’s transaction machine has not yet been determined, Schott said.
“All we know is that the credit card machine somehow was compromised,” he said. “Whether someone entered it remotely or it got a virus that compromised (the security of) the machine has not been determined.”
The restaurant has sent the machine to be repaired to help determine how the thief or thieves accessed the credit card information of some customers. The restaurant has since switched to a non-Internet connected form of processing transactions.
Sirros owner Dick Greminger did not return a call from the Daily Journal. However, investigators said he has been very cooperative.
Many customers first learned that their credit card information had been stolen when their respective banks called to check on charges. Thus far, customers of five banks in Ste. Genevieve – MRV, Bank of Bloomsdale, Regions Bank, US Bank, and First Bank – have reported having customers who were victims of identity theft. Schott said at least one victim uses a bank in Perryville.
Victims include customers from Ste. Genevieve, St. Francois and Perry counties.
“Because this is a tourist town, this could be far reaching,” Schott cautioned. “We don’t know if one person is doing this, or if the information was sold to many people.”
Most of the fraudulent charges on debit or credit cards were made in Georgia or Texas, although others were made in California or in other Southern states, he added.
Most of the local investigation is completed and the Secret Service has taken the lead in the case, Schott said. They are currently following several tips, he added.
Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.