Business chiefs stung in credit card scam

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The Independent Online

Swindlers stole credit-card numbers belonging to the heads of Lehman Brothers, the Wall Street investment bank, and Coca-Cola to buy diamonds and watches worth more than $730,000 (£462,000), according to court allegations.

Federal prosecutors said the two alleged crooks had telephoned their victims' banks and credit card companies and asked that their billing statements be sent elsewhere. They had used the executives' social security numbers. Prosecutors did not say how the two obtained the numbers. Once the pair had secured the credit card numbers, they had diamonds worth as much as $54,000 shipped to hotels where they had made reservations in the executives' names, prosecutors said.

The two defendants, James Jackson, 39, and Derek Cunningham, 28, "fraudulently obtained and attempted to obtain approximately 20 diamonds, including at least two in excess of five carats," US Attorney Mary Jo White said in a statement announcing their indictment. Both of the men were arrested in February, although Mr Cunningham is now a fugitive.

The fraudulent scheme lasted from December until February, prosecutors say. Court papers identified two of the victims as being Richard Fuld, the chairman of Lehman Brothers and John Alm, the chief operating officer of Coca-Cola Enterprises.

Prosecutors did not say how long it took for the executives, whose combined personal wealth runs into billions of dollars, to notice such a large hole in their credit card bills.