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Former hardware store owner charged with fraud

Erik Joseph

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office has charged Erik Joseph, the former owner of Seaport Hardware in South Boston, of larceny and fraud in a scheme involving his customer’s credit card numbers. The 46-count indictment, announced on Dec. 19, involves $290,894 in fraudulent charges. The investigation is ongoing.

“The amount of evidence was so massive that the sitting grand jury only had time to hear testimony regarding American Express transactions,” the announcement said. “Visa, MasterCard and debit transactions will be heard by another grand jury.”

According to the district attorney’s office, Joseph began the scam in 2001 and continued it for the next six years. Prosecutors believe he set up dozens of shell businesses, each with its own credit card merchant number, bank account routing number and mailing address. Using the credit card numbers of his hardware store’s customers, Joseph would then key in transactions that billed unsuspecting cardholders for multiple sales that were just under $200, according to the charges.

At the beginning of the scheme, Joseph would wait four to six months before billing the victims, the indictment said. In 2006 and 2007, the time delay disappeared and accounts were being maxed out within days of the cardholders’ visits to Seaport Hardware. Once the credit card company had transferred funds to the bank account linked to the transaction, Joseph would drain the account and leave the victims unable to reclaim the money, according to the charges.

Joseph was arrested on Nov. 27 at his home. His arraignment is set for Jan. 15.

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