11/03/2006

Ill. officers disrupt identity theft ring

The Associated Press

JOLIET, Ill.- Ten hotel workers were arrested Thursday in what police said was an identity theft ring that involved thousands of stolen credit card numbers nationwide.

The four-month investigation netted more than 150 stolen credit cards used by visitors to book rooms in Joliet and Romeoville, both near Chicago, authorities said.

The ring involved workers, managers and at least three owners at two Holiday Inn Express franchises, three Super 8s, a Ramada and a Budget Inn, police said.

Police said they believe their informant, who faces unrelated charges, bought more than 10,000 credit card numbers used by hotel guests in the Joliet area over the past six years.

Those arrested were charged with identify theft, computer fraud and unlawful use of an account number. The hotels' parent chains were not involved in the thefts, prosecutors said.

It was unclear how much might have been charged to the credit card numbers.

Brad Minor, a spokesman for Atlanta-based Holiday Inn Express, said the chain was ''extremely concerned'' about the charges against its franchisees.

A spokeswoman for New Jersey-based Wyndham Hotel Group, whose franchises include Super 8 and Ramada, declined to comment.

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