Joseph Brown
Photo: Fulton County Sheriff's Office
Photo: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Man steals $450K in credit card fraud scheme, gets 17 years in prison

A man with nine felony convictions is on his way to prison again after pleading guilty to stealing money from businesses by convincing credit card companies that he owned them. 

Joseph Brown, 36, was sentenced to 30 years with 17 to serve in prison for theft by taking, computer theft and identity fraud. 

Between April 2014 and November 2015, Brown stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from 15 victims, including plastic surgeons, doctors and restaurant owners, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said. 

“When someone swipes their credit card at a business, the transaction is handled by a credit card processing company,” Howard said. “For more than a year and a half, Brown called a local credit card processing company 345 times to gather pieces of information about customer accounts managed by the credit card processing company.”

Eventually, Brown had enough information about more than a dozen accounts to authenticate himself as the owner of the businesses, and convinced the credit card processor to divert funds from those accounts into multiple fraudulent bank accounts, Howard said. 

“Brown also tricked the local credit card processing company into emailing him original contracts and applications related to these accounts,” Howard said. “That allowed the defendant to gain access to the victims’ personal identifying information, such as social security numbers.”

Over the span of a year and a half, Brown stole more than $1.1 million from multiple businesses; however, some of those transactions were reversed because of inquiries from the actual business owners, Howard said. Investigators said Brown made off with more than $450,000.

Atlanta police learned about the case when a restaurant owner in Orlando, Fla., filed a complaint after $5,800 was diverted from his account into a fraudulent one based in Atlanta, Howard said. A detective gathered information about the fraudulent account and found pictures of Brown withdrawing money from an ATM.

Brown was arrested at his home in November 2015. Investigators found dozens of credit cards, driver’s licenses in other people’s names, bank account documents for fraudulent accounts, home loan documents, laptops, iPads, cellphones, $23,000 in blank money orders and $145,000 in cash. 

As part of his sentence, Brown was also ordered to pay $450,000 in restitution to the local credit card processing company. 

Howard said Brown has 26 previous arrests and nine felony convictions in DeKalb, Cobb, Douglas and Fulton counties. He was sentenced to 10 years of probation in Cobb for identity fraud. 

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