A 26-year-old Chicago man is being held on charges of aggravated identity theft alleging he stole over $50,000 from employees and patrons of the Lincolnshire restaurant where he worked to fund more than a dozen trips to Disney World, authorities said.
Alexander N. Pera, of the 3800 block of North Ottawa Avenue, also faces charges of identity theft and money laundering, Lincolnshire police Investigator Adam Hyde said.
Pera is being held in Lake County jail in lieu of $500,000 bond, Hyde said, adding that further charges are possible.
Hyde said Lincolnshire police were contacted in May by the Orange County Sheriff's Office in Orlando, Florida and learned that Pera -- a manager at Eddie Merlot's Restaurant in Lincolnshire -- had made over 15 different Walt Disney World Resort reservations in five months and had sailed aboard Disney Cruise Line twice earlier this year.
Hyde said police learned during an investigation that Pera had provided false information to airlines and the Disney Company for his travel plans, including fictitious names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.
Pera paid for his trips using fraudulently obtained gift cards and prepaid credit cards, which police learned were acquired with stolen credit card numbers and cash, Hyde said. Victims linked to the investigation were diners or former employees at Eddie Merlot's, he added.
"He would steal a little here and a little there to avoid being detected, but would also target business customers with corporate account credit cards and victimize them a few times per month in hopes the smaller charges would not be discovered," Hyde said. "He also stole cash from the business by conducting fraudulent voids."
Police executed search warrants July 2 at Pera's residence in Chicago and at Eddie Merlot's, where additional evidence was uncovered. He was arrested the same day while driving to work, Hyde added.
During the arrest, Hyde said, Pera was found in possession of fictitious identification cards, gift cards and a loaded handgun.
At this time, police are aware of more 50 victims of identity theft with losses totaling over $50,000. Eddie Merlot's management is cooperating with the investigation and assisting with identifying fraud victims, police said.
Lincolnshire police were assisted in the investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service, Orange County Sheriff's Office and the Cyber and White Collar Crimes Division of the Lake County State's Attorney's Office.
Police are asking anyone that had their credit card compromised or was a victim of identity theft after dining at Eddie Merlot's to contact Hyde at (847) 913-2349.