Monday, Aug. 23, 2004 | 1:17 a.m.
A 34-year-old bartender at a Las Vegas strip club remained in jail this morning on 45 counts of possessing and selling the basic ingredients used to steal a person's identity.
Lorie Marie Lomanto was arrested Aug. 14, accused of stealing the credit card and driver's license numbers of patrons and selling them to undercover Metro Police detectives. She is scheduled to appear in Las Vegas Justice Court Sept. 3 to determine whether there is enough evidence for her to stand trial.
She is also charged with giving the detectives 1.2 grams of cocaine and selling them 237 hydrocodone tablets.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Bill Kephart said Lomanto first sold controlled substances to the undercover officers and later told them "because of her position she got credit card numbers from patrons (of the strip club) and sold them to the officers."
This type of identity theft is becoming increasingly common, especially in Las Vegas, a town with lots of bars and tourists, said Roy Michael, a local mortgage broker and lecturer on identity theft.
"One big reason why Las Vegas is so popular for this type of scam is that people go home to another state and it's harder to track down," he said. "Bartenders always ask, 'Where are you from?' It's the perfect setup."
Lomanto, who also uses the surnames Lamanto and Pantano, met two undercover detectives in February and provided cocaine on several occasions, according to the arrest warrant. The name and location of the nightclub was being withheld because the investigation is still ongoing, Metro Police Sgt. Chris Jones said.
In March, the arrest warrant alleges, Lomanto told the detectives she could get them 15 credit cards a week for a fee of $500.
She explained that "customers that frequent her place of employment mostly use debit cards or credit cards," and that "it was very easy to get credit card numbers and driver's license numbers to match," the warrant alleges.
Police also allege Lomanto said she had access to a large quantity of the prescription drug hydrocodone, known under its brand name as Lortab.
The warrant says she met with the detectives March 19 and sold them 14 credit card numbers along with names, expiration dates and driver's license numbers to match for $500. The report also alleges she sold them 237 Lortab pills for $400.
On three occasions after that, she allegedly sold the detectives 15 or 16 additional names and numbers for $500 per set, according to the warrant.
Michael, an identity theft victim himself who writes a monthly Internet newsletter on the topic, said it's not unusual for restaurant and bar workers to steal patrons' credit card numbers.
Bartenders often hold patrons' credit cards if they are running a tab, which makes the cardholder vulnerable to identity theft.
Michael pointed out that in San Jose, Calif., police recently uncovered two fraud rings that recruited workers at restaurants to slide customers' cards through a small device that recorded account numbers.
The ringleaders then used the account numbers to manufacture counterfeit credit cards, which they used in shopping sprees. Fourteen people have been arrested, according to reports.
"Identity theft happens at every level," Metro's Jones said. "Any way people can get information, they will do it. They're gaining information everywhere, whether they're purchasing it, having a friend or spouse or relative steal it, anywhere."
Michael recommends paying cash, and when using a credit card can't be avoided -- such as when making purchases online -- he suggests using a credit card with a the lowest possible limit.
On Friday Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Nancy Oesterle lowered Lomanto's bail from $500,000 to $235,000.
Lomanto's attorney, Al Lasso, argued that amount still didn't fit the nature of the crimes his client is charged with, especially considering she had no prior criminal history.
Lasso said the bail amount for his client made no sense, comparing her bail to that of a defendant in a high-profile murder case.
"All I know is Sandra Murphy (charged with murdering Ted Binion) is out of custody after posting $200,000 bail, and she's on trial for murder," Lasso said.
Oesterle said Lomanto was guilty of "the fastest growing crime in America, and there are victims." She added that Lomanto "wasn't just selling credit card numbers but also driver's license numbers," which can be used to steal a person's identity.