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Man sentenced to seven years in prison for credit card scheme that ended in Watertown

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An Oswego County man has been sentenced to more than seven years in federal prison for a multistate credit card scheme that ended with his arrest in January in Watertown.

Nathan L. Howard, 25, Williamstown, was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court, Utica, to 87 months in prison and ordered to pay $21,478 in restitution after Aug. 26 guilty pleas to four counts contained in a grand jury indictment alleging he made counterfeit credit cards and used the phony cards to make purchases. He also was ordered to undergo an additional three years of supervision upon his release from prison.

Mr. Howard and Ashley N. Perlmutter, 24, also of Williamstown, were charged with “carding,” a practice in which a hand-held skimming device is used to capture data from a credit card and a counterfeit card is produced using the data.

According to a federal complaint, Mr. Howard was a waiter at a chain restaurant in Thornton, Colo., where he was known as Daniel Howard and had provided a Florida driver’s license as proof of his identity. After the restaurant received several complaints from customers alleging their credit cards had been compromised, it was determined that Mr. Howard had been their waiter.

Officers obtained a warrant to search Mr. Howard’s vehicle in January 2012 and allegedly found a hand-held skimmer and a Florida driver’s license in the name of Robert Allen Banks, with Mr. Howard’s photo on it. Mr. Howard agreed to cooperate with the investigation and was not arrested at that point, but investigators later learned he had provided them with a fake local address.

A month later, customers who had been served by Mr. Howard at the Colorado restaurant complained that their credit card accounts were being used fraudulently in Reno, Nev. A warrant was issued for Mr. Howard’s arrest on charges of money laundering, theft, forgery, identity theft and possession of identity theft tools.

The two were arrested Jan. 2 in Watertown after going on a pre-Christmas shopping spree at area businesses. According to the plea agreement filed Monday, Mr. Howard admitted that on Dec. 21, 2012, he used a fake debit card to withdraw $509 from a KeyBank ATM in the town of Watertown, and to make a $34 purchase at Buffalo Wild Wings, 1290 Arsenal St., a $1,137 purchase at Walmart Supercenter on Route 3 and a $452 purchase at Target, also on Route 3.

He also admitted that on Jan. 2, he possessed a card encoder that he used to encode 560 access devices containing other people’s bank account numbers and personal information. The access devices had been issued by 88 separate financial institutions, according to the agreement. He also admitted that he possessed a handgun after previously having been convicted of a crime.

Federal charges were dismissed against Miss Perlmutter in February. She pleaded guilty in May in Jefferson County Court to petit larceny and third-degree identity theft, admitting that on Dec. 21, 2012, she stole property from Target on Route 3 by acquiring the property while assuming a name other than her own. She subsequently was sentenced to time served at the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building.

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