By A.J. ALGIER
Sun Staff Writer
WAKEFIELD — A 44-year-old woman charged with felony credit card theft in a skimming scam linked to former workers at the China Buffet Restaurant in Westerly has appearances scheduled in Washington County Superior Court before Judge Melanie Wilk Thunberg.
Shao Ting Zhu, of Norwich, Conn., was arrested by Westerly police in December as part of an investigation into the scam linked to at least 34 incidents of credit card theft beginning last November. Zhu was charged with fraudulently obtaining a credit card and two counts of using a stolen credit card.
Police said Zhu attempted to use allegedly fraudulent cards at Walmart in Westerly. The woman was captured on the store’s surveillance video purchasing hundreds of dollars of merchandise, according to police.
Police had received calls from credit card holders who had their numbers stolen and new cards created or had their numbers used to purchase items which then appear on their credit card statements. Local bank officials then confirmed to police the victims’ cards had been used at the restaurant.
Zhu did not enter a plea to the charges as is customary in felony cases at her arraignment in December. She was due in court for a hearing today. Westerly Police Chief Edward W. St. Clair said Tuesday his department, as well as several other agencies continue to coordinate efforts in investigating the widespread scam including several states which included using a device to copy numbers from cards.
Meanwhile, China Buffet remains open. Owners Tong Lu and Sara Qiu said they were as much victims as were their customers and were forced to dismiss much of their staff after it was discovered that a number of diners at their establishment reported their card numbers had been compromised, although they still had possession of the actual card.
Lu said although they had no indication of anyone skimming, he and his wife were doing all financial transactions themselves. The couple offered diners specials and other incentives to bring back customers after the incidents.
Most credit card users were able to have the fraudulent charges removed from their credit cards once they noticed the error.