Federal prosecutors have charged a former Florida restaurant owner with fraudulently charging more than $100,000 to the payment card accounts of his former customers and with trying to pass more than $4.6 million in bad checks. According to charges unsealed last week in U.S. District Court in Miami, Bruce Horner, 54, of Coral Springs, Fla., allegedly made fraudulent charges to the card accounts that some 50 customers of his Wat a Lunch n More restaurant in Tamarac, Fla., previously had used to pay for meals and catering services before Horner sold the business in May 2007. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., also accuses Horner and an accomplice, Arthur Bitterman, 25, of stealing the identity of someone with the initials A.E. to set up a fraudulent merchant account through Sage Payment Solutions Inc., a McLean, Virginia-based independent sales organization and transaction processor. Sage did not return calls seeking comment. Horner paid Bitterman for his participation in the scheme, prosecutors allege. Horner allegedly also used the name of a legitimate business he did not own, without that business's permission, as the location where customers' cards would be charged. Horner and Bitterman set up fraudulent business accounts with Bank of America Corp., Bank Atlantic Bancorp, Regions Financial Corp. and Wachovia Corp., and Horner set up a personal bank account with Citigroup's Citi Smith Barney division, court documents say. Horner allegedly deposited funds from fraudulent card transactions in the business accounts, transferred those funds to his personal account and wrote 59 fraudulent checks worth $4.6 million from the business accounts to deposit in his SmithBarney account. He allegedly withdrew more than $400,000 from his personal account before bank officials realized the checks would not be honored, court documents say. The card and check fraud for which Horner is charged occurred between March 2007 and February 2008.

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