Suspect Arrested Twice This Summer For Credit Card Scam

OCEAN CITY — A Philadelphia man was arrested last week for the second time this summer for fraudulently obtaining credit card information from a victim and using the phony card to make several large purchases.

Last Friday, an Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officer fielded a complaint from a potential fraud victim who told police her credit card had been used several times at different locations in Ocean City over the previous two days. The victim told police she was still in possession of the credit card and she had not been in Ocean City for two years.

The victim sent the officer a screen shot of her bank statement showing all of the charges made on it in Ocean City including various bars and restaurants, twice at an amusement park, at a liquor store and a discount store. The largest single transaction was $221 while the smallest was $71.

The OCPD officer went to the liquor store where one of the fraudulent charges occurred and met with the store manager. The manager was able to pull up video footage of the time of the transaction and matched up the last four digits of the victim’s card. The video showed the suspect purchasing two bottles of liquor using the credit card with the same last four digits as the card belonging to the victim.

The suspect attempted a second purchase at the liquor store, but the transaction was denied. He left the area in a blue Ford Taurus with Pennsylvania tags. The video surveillance captured the tag number and search of a data base determined it was owned by a man in Philadelphia.

Using the vehicle registration information, officers were able to determine the vehicle was owned by the father of the alleged suspect, identified as James Kofa, 29, of Philadelphia. A record check revealed Kofa had been arrested in Ocean City in June for allegedly using stolen credit card information to rent a condo in the resort for two nights. When the officer compared the booking photo from that arrest to the video surveillance at the liquor store, it was determined Kofa was the suspect.

Last Friday, the OCPD received a message from the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) concerning a credit card scam. The OCHMRA executive director told police several hotels in Ocean City had reported a male using stolen credit card information. In those incidents, the cardholder’s information was contained on the magnetic strip, but the front of the card had the name James Kofa, according to police reports.

In March 2019, Kofa had been arrested in Georgia and was found in possession of a credit card reader, or skimming, device. The device allows one to use a computer program to read, erase, rewrite or encode financial card information onto magnetic strips on credit cards, gift cards or any other card that has a magnetic strip.

Around 1:25 a.m. on Sunday, an officer observed Kofa driving the Ford Taurus on Baltimore Avenue. The officer initiated a traffic stop and a search of the vehicle revealed over 100 blank credit, debit and gift cards, some of which had Kofa’s name on them. The search also revealed a credit card reader-writer encoder machine.

In the vehicle, officers found a debit card with Kofa’s name on it, but the same last four digits of the victim’s whose card had been used all over Ocean City late last week. Also in the vehicle were the two bottles of liquor from the store where the investigation began days earlier.

The investigation determined Kofa was in possession of the victim’s credit card information scanned onto a card bearing his name. He was charged with five counts of credit card fraud for last week’s spree, the same charges for which he was arrested in June.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.