Even if you’ve eaten out hundreds of times, there’s always something slightly foreboding about handing over your credit card over to a complete stranger at the end of the meal. They might only have it for a few seconds. They might not even leave the table. Nonetheless, it’s impossible to not feel a little apprehensive when someone else has all your money in their hands. As a recent story from North Carolina proves, these fears may not be entirely misplaced.
According to a report in the Asheville Citizen Times, a waitress at Juicy Lucy’s Burger Bar And Grill in the small town of Asheville went on a criminal rampage involving credit cards and excessive tipping. The paper allege that the woman, 25-year-old Leah Marie Wehrmann, collected more than a dozen tips of more than $100 after fraudulently editing receipts. She is now in police custody, facing 14 felony counts of obtaining property under false pretense.
During her spree, investigators believe that Wehrmann managed to make off with nearly $4,000 in “tips” from the restaurant. To make matters slightly more complicated, police have also found that none of the fraud involved customer money - rather, Wehrmann was "using prepaid Visa cards that she was purchasing with her own money and putting extravagant tips on." It was this that allowed her to get away with the deception for so long and keep the truth of what was going on from her employers..
When she was finally discovered, the scale of Wehrmann’s fraud surprised even experienced investigators. In total, police discovered that Wehrmann used 14 separate credit cards to charge the excessive tips — ranging from $59.16 to $539.58. They also assert that she charged the tips “knowing that the cards didn't have the amount of funds available”, according to the various arrest warrants. Asheville Police Department spokeswoman Christina Hallingse later told reporters at the Asheville Citizen Times that “Investigation into the matter is ongoing” as detectives try to establish the extent of what took place.
Though this sort of tipping crime is highly unusual, it is certainly not unheard of. In 2017, a woman was arrested at an IHOP after adding excessive tips to 15 different customer receipts, while a shocking story from 2011 uncovered a wide ranging scheme where over 50 customers had their identities stolen after using their cards in a restaurant. It all just goes to show that you can never be too careful, wherever you’re eating.
Although representatives from the North Carolina restaurant have not provided a comment on the matter, reports indicate that Wehrmann is currently out of police custody on an unsecured bond of $50,000, and was set to appear in court on April 22. It is unclear whether she kept her appointment.