Crime Blotter

Upper East Side A.T.M.’s

Bitten by Credit-Card Sharks

You may have noticed that characteristic sound-something like the shuffling of cards-that A.T.M.’s make before dispensing money. The more cash you ask for, the longer that shuffling sound before the bills drop into the slot.

However, 10 straight minutes of it is an awfully long time-so long, in fact, that it attracted the attention of a security guard at the Duane Reade drugstore at 72nd Street and First Avenue, where a customer was using its A.T.M. on May 17.

And if the noise wasn’t suspicious enough, whenever the guard tried to get a good look at him, the A.T.M. user surreptitiously hid his face. “He kept pulling his hat down,” explained Police Officer Lawrence Bennett, who responded to the scene. “He kept turning his body.”

His transaction at the drugstore complete, the suspect got in a waiting car and, minutes later, stopped just two blocks north, at a deli with another cash machine. That’s when Officer Bennett drove past in his patrol car and spotted the Duane Reade employee running back and forth on the sidewalk in a state of some agitation. “We get there as he’s walking into the store,” Officer Bennett said of the suspect.

The next stop for the A.T.M. player was the Best Health Deli, where he was already working his mojo on the deli’s machine. “I see the one guy trying to swipe the card,” the cop said. “I tell him, ‘Let’s go outside.’”

The suspect’s behavior became even more suspicious when he was out on the street. “We start talking to the defendant as he’s trying to break up a credit card in his hand,” Officer Bennett continued. Furthermore, the card he was attempting to destroy bore a name different from the one he gave the cop as his own.

At the same time, his accomplice, still sitting outside the deli in the getaway car, remembered that he had a previous appointment. “I notice the brake lights going on,” Officer Bennett said, “so I took him out of the car.”

A subsequent search of the vehicle found nine other credit cards in the center console, as well as $3,700 in cash-all of it $20′s. The suspects were taken to the 19th Precinct station house, where further investigation involving a “BIN machine”-a device that reads credit cards-discovered that the numbers embossed on the front of the card didn’t match those on the magnetic strip on back.

“Every single card had different numbers from what they should’ve been,” Officer Bennett said. “There was something wrong with those credit cards.”

The perps, both from Brooklyn and both of Middle Eastern origin, were charged with 10 counts of possession of forged instruments. Officer Bennett also alerted the F.B.I.- NYPD’s Joint Terrorism Task Force of the arrest, “because of the names and all the credit cards, to see if they’re on any of the lists,” he explained.

While the two men weren’t especially communicative-one requested a lawyer almost immediately-Officer Bennett did learn that one of them had an advanced degree in cash-machine usage. “One guy works on A.T.M.’s,” he explained. “He services A.T.M.’s all over the city.”

The larger issue, as Officer Bennett sees it, is the proliferation of cash machines in the city, making them inviting targets for crooks. “Anybody can get an A.T.M.,” he said. “That’s the problem.”

Wiener Warfare

Given the hungry crowds, the limited counter space and the succulence of its hot dogs, it’s surprising that full-scale brawls aren’t a common occurrence at Papaya King, located at 86th Street and Third Avenue.

However, civility did break down briefly on May 12, when a man standing on line accused a female customer next to him of bumping his daughter. The alleged perpetrator, a 38-year-old West 80th Street resident, responded that if she had bumped the child, it was wholly unintentional and certainly not cause for the kid’s dad to threaten to punch her, as she says he did.

The girl’s father, a 39-year-old East 83rd Street resident, saw the matter somewhat differently. He says that when the woman backed into his daughter, he “politely asked [her] to be careful.”

“I’m not near your daughter,” she snapped back, in a manner the dad characterized as “rude and obnoxious.”

There’s no doubt that Papaya King makes some of the tastiest dogs in the city, but regarding the blame in this recent altercation, the courts may have to settle the issue: Each party filed a competing harassment complaints against the other at the 19th Precinct.

Candid Cabbie

From time to time, the Crime Blotter has counseled members of the general public to keep their opinions of motorists and their driving skills to themselves, no matter how egregious the affront to their dignity (or, for that matter, their torso and limbs), as a recent incident once again proved.

On May 12, a 39-year-old East 70th Street resident claimed that a yellow cab almost struck him as he stood at the northeast corner of 74th Street and Madison Avenue around noon. According to the police report, when the man approached the cabbie and “asked him why he almost hit him with the vehicle,” the driver displayed little remorse. In fact, he responded with a hearty “Shut the fuck up.” After getting out of his car, the cabbie then punched his critic twice, knocking him to the ground.

Chances that the cabbie will respond to the assault complaint filed against him, however, appear slim: He returned to his cab and sped away before his victim was able to get a good look at him or his license number.

Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at RGard135@aol.com.