Taco Bell worker in SC accused of credit card fraud: police

A Taco Bell employee in Hartsville, South Carolina, is accused of taking pictures of customers’ credit cards and spending the stolen funds on herself, police say.

A Taco Bell employee in Hartsville, South Carolina, is accused of taking pictures of customers’ credit cards and spending the stolen funds on herself, police say.

AP

A Taco Bell worker splurged on shoes, a phone and electric scooter rides using credit card information she stole from customers, according to South Carolina authorities.

Laquawanda Hawkins, 36, worked the drive-thru at a Taco Bell in Hartsville where police said she took pictures of customers’ payment cards, despite her manager being just a few feet away.

Police also pointed to surveillance video showing Hawkins in the act.

An “assistant manager positively identified Hawkins as the employee running the drive-thru and committing the thefts,” Hartsville officers wrote in a report obtained by McClatchy News. “She is so brazen and slick about it that she even does it while the manager is right behind her stocking shelves.”

Hawkins was arrested June 17 on multiple counts of identity fraud, credit card number theft and receiving goods fraudulently obtained, according to the police report. She was booked into the Darlington County Detention Center and released three days later after posting a $60,000 bond.

Officers were first alerted to the alleged thefts on June 6 after a victim noticed unauthorized charges on her bank card after visiting the Taco Bell drive-thru, according to the report. A copy of her statement showed the fraudster tried swiping her card at Pizza Hut and used it at an auto parts store, in addition to racking up more than $630 in Bird Scooter rentals.

At least two other victims came forward with similar complaints of fraudulent charges, police said. One of them filed a police report after their card information was used to pay a city water bill. A state driver’s license submitted with the payment belonged to Hawkins, according to authorities.

“There was also other charges made to the card … for Bird Scooters, McDonald’s and a grocery pickup from Walmart,” officers wrote.

Hawkins was brought in for questioning on June 17 and acknowledged taking photos of credit and debit card numbers after falling behind on her rent and utilities, the police report states. She denied sharing the numbers with anyone else but said it was possible her live-in boyfriend saw the photos on her cellphone.

Hawkins also acknowledged buying “some shoes” and new phone online, though she denied purchasing “as much stuff as (the victims) claimed,” officers wrote.

When asked if other Taco Bell employees had stolen customers‘ credit card information, Hawkins replied, “Probably.”

Taco Bell Corp. said it’s aware of the incident and takes “customer privacy seriously.”

“The franchise owner and operator is working with the local authorities and has informed us that the team member is no longer with the organization,” a company spokesperson told McClatchy News in a statement.

Hartsville is about 70 miles northeast of Columbia.

This story was originally published June 23, 2022 12:59 PM.

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Tanasia is a national Real-Time reporter based in Atlanta covering news across Georgia, Mississippi and the southeastern U.S. Her sub-beat is retail and consumer news. She’s an alumna of Kennesaw State University and joined McClatchy in 2020.