Arlington Coffee Shop Owner Convicted In Credit Card Fraud Scheme

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DECEMBER 13, 2022

Adiam Berhane, 50, who owned Caffe Aficionado on N. Lynne Street in Rosslyn, defrauded residents from at least 2013 to 2016, stealing their identities and using them to purchase gift cards and other items, according to court records.

ARLINGTON, VA — The owner of a coffee shop in Arlington has been convicted on several charges in federal court in connection with a credit card fraud scheme that officials say totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars and involved hundreds of victims.

Adiam Berhane, 50, who owned Caffe Aficionado on N. Lynne Street in Rosslyn, defrauded residents from at least 2013 to 2016, stealing their identities and using them to purchase gift cards and other items, according to court records.

A federal jury found Berhane guilty of multiple charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, trafficking in unauthorized access devices, aggravated identity theft, unlawful possession of 15 or more access devices, and possession of access device-making equipment with intent to defraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a news release Friday.

More than a third of Caffe Aficionado’s income from June 2013 to July 2016 “came from a pattern of highly unusual redemptions of American Express gift cards, with the pattern beginning several months before Caffe Aficionado actually opened in approximately October 2013,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Berhane faces a mandatory minimum penalty of two years in prison and a maximum penalty of 196 years in prison when sentenced on March 15, 2023. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

In October 2016, Caffe Aficionado closed following a police raid. Arlington County Police said at the time that Berhane was involved in a scheme to profit from fraudulent credit cards. She and her business partner, Clark Donat, were both arrested and charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit credit card fraud, ARLnow reported.

Berhane worked with several people, including Keith Lemons, 55 of Clinton, Maryland, Tiffany Younger, 50, of Washington, D.C., and an unindicted co-conspirator to steal the identities of residents of the D.C. area and elsewhere, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Credit card manufacturing equipment used to make fake credit cards was found by investigators in the apartment that Berhane shared with the unnamed co-conspirator, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Berhane would obtain stolen credit card information from the internet and provide it to the unnamed person who would then manufacture the cards, which Berhane then distributed to co-conspirators for use at area stores, according to court documents.

“Berhane played a central role in the conspiracy. She bought the stolen card information. She managed the distribution of the fraudulent payment cards. She advised Lemons and Younger on how to carry out fraud in particular stores and decided how Lemons and Younger would be compensated,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.

As part of the scheme, items purchased with victims’ credit card information would sometimes be returned for refunds to bank accounts that Berhane controlled, including her personal account and the accounts of Caffe Aficionado that Berhane owned and operated with the unnamed person, according to court documents.

Berhane also used fraudulent payment cards to purchase gift cards at retail stores that were then redeemed at her business, Caffe Aficionado, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

Lemons and Younger previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and are awaiting sentencing.


Courtesy/Source: The article originally appeared on Arlington Patch.