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Former military police officer charged in fraud scheme

Saturday - 4/7/2012, 2:00am  ET


A Frederick man faces charges of operating a fraud scheme in which police said he stole credit card numbers and used them to make more than $9,000 in purchases online and at a Frederick

department store.

Benjamin Edginstein Wooten, 25, of the 7100 block of Cimarron Court, was charged Thursday via criminal summons with 96 separate offenses, including illegal use of credit card numbers, information/identity theft and theft.

The charges are the result of an investigation that began in November, when officers from the Frederick Police Department were called to the Boscov's store on West Patrick Street for a fraud complaint, according to charging documents filed in Frederick County District Court.

The store's loss prevention officer told police he had been working on the case for several months and believed Wooten was using stolen credit card numbers to buy $250 electronic gift cards, which they used in the store and online.

He said he had surveillance footage of Wooten buying items with the cards. In some cases Wooten used a personal credit card when the transactions went over the amount of the electronic gift cards, the documents state.

The officer also told police that Wooten used a military identification card to get a 15 percent discount. Police contacted officials in Fort Hood, Texas, who said Wooten took medical retirement from the Army -- where he served as a military police officer -- in October 2011.

Detective Rob Marker took over the case and got court orders for each of the 37 transactions, which took place between August 2011 and October 2011 and totaled $9,250. He verified with the financial institutions that the charges were fraudulent.

According to the documents, Marker learned that most of the email addresses associated with the purchases were from domain names Wooten owned, including several associated with an online gaming site he operated, www.blazingfire.com.

Marker spoke with people around the country whose credit card numbers had been stolen. One woman said she had allowed her nephew to use her card to play online games. But the others told Marker that no one in their household plays the games, and most had no idea how their credit card numbers had been compromised. Several people said their cards had been used fraudulently all over the country.

Marker said he initially thought the numbers may have been stolen through Wooten's gaming site, but his investigation indicated otherwise.

"I have no information as to where he may have gotten the numbers," Marker said. "Only he knows. I don't know if that question will ever be answered."

Each of the 28 people whose card numbers were stolen has been reimbursed and had their account closed, the documents state.