Tonawanda News

September 5, 2012

Accused Walmart manager was arrested at Bon-Ton

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The Wal-Mart manager who was arrested last week in North Tonawanda for stealing a customer’s credit card information was charged with a similar offense while working at Bon-Ton in the Town of Tonawanda just a few months ago.

Eric A. Martinez, 23, was arrested June 20 at the Sheridan Drive store.

“A customer noticed some unauthorized charges, and last used (her credit card) at the Bon-Ton store,” Lt. Nick Bado said. “She never got the credit card back from the clerk. It looks like he actually took it from her.” 

Bado said Discover representatives contacted the victim and told her there had been suspicious purchases at a few other stores in the area, but it’s unknown exactly what Martinez bought. 

The woman called town police and detectives investigated.

“I don’t know exactly how they ended up catching him,” Bado said. “They probably went over there and identified him. Ultimately, he was connected to it.”

Martinez, of Niagara Street, Buffalo, was charged with three counts as a result of the incident — fourth-degree grand larceny, felony identity theft, and misdemeanor identity theft. 

Martinez is scheduled to be sentenced for those charges Nov. 29. And on Thursday, he’s expected to appear in North Tonawanda City Court in relation to the incident at Walmart, where he will be arraigned on a charge of third-degree unlawful possession of personal identification.

The small statured man from Puerto Rico was arrested at the newly opened Walmart on Aug. 29 after a Wheatfield man told authorities his credit card company had reported several suspicious charges on the card. 

The victim, who lives on Graydon Drive, said he visited the store Aug. 27 to return an item. Martinez, who was a manager in the customer service department, completed the transaction and wrote down the customer’s credit card information during the process. 

The victim questioned Martinez as to why he was copying the information down, but Martinez told him he needed it to handle the request. The victim told authorities he didn’t think anything of it at the time.

But on Wednesday, the fraud department at the credit card company called the victim and said there had been multiple charges on the card at retail websites. The victim immediately suspected Martinez. 

Niagara County Sheriff’s deputies arrived at the store to investigate and the officers’ report states Martinez initially denied the allegations, saying, “I don’t know anything about anyone’s credit cards.

The deputies then consulted with store security and found a video of the transaction in question. 

Eventually, Martinez succumbed to detectives’ questions and admitted his actions, the report said.

“OK, yes, I wrote down the customer’s credit card number and security code. ... I went home and used the credit card information to buy a few iPhones online,” the report quotes. 

The arrest report states Martinez bought the phones from a few different websites and planned on selling them to a store.  

He admitted to being arrested “up to eight times before” and stealing another Walmart customer’s credit card information for the same purpose. NT detectives are continuing to investigate the case and Wal-Mart representatives have not returned 

Martinez is being held in lieu of $500 bail. 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.