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Star-struck chronic credit card thief pleads guilty – again

The celebrities change but the scammer remains the same.

Leland Burks, 55, admitted in State Supreme Court Thursday that he used stolen credit card numbers to live the high life last year. Burks claimed he was part of the entourage for comedian Kevin Hart when he was booking hotel rooms with a stolen ID. He also used stolen credit card numbers to buy batches of tickets to Hart’s April 17, 2015 show at the former First Niagara Center.

Burks doesn’t know Kevin Hart.

All together, prosecutors say, the expenditures were more than $12,700.

Burks pleaded guilty before Justice Christopher J. Burns to two first degree felonies: identity theft and attempt to defraud.

Burks was in court here after serving time in Alabama on another stolen credit card conviction. One of those cards belonged to a district judge, Assistant District Attorney Gary Ertel said.

Burks also brought a judge into a scheme he tried in Buffalo in 2011. In that case, he was found guilty of fraud and bail-jumping after he used stolen credit cards to buy theater tickets and book hotel rooms. He also bought two bottles of Dom Perignon worth $1,016, saying they were for a particular Buffalo City Court judge.

His taste for Dom Perignon was well-established by then. In 1998, when Burks used stolen credit cards to reserve a room at the Hampton Inn on Walden Avenue, he also asked for four or five bottles of Dom Perignon for his “employer,” Puff Daddy. Claiming to be the singer’s manager, he also said he was having some items delivered to the motel.

Before things went much further, the inn’s own skeptical manager checked with the credit card company and discovered the fraud. Then three leather jackets arrived for Burks, purchased with the same card. When Burks called back and asked to have the jackets sent to a Loring Avenue address – Burks’s home – the manager told him he had to pick them up. Cheektowaga police were waiting for him as he left the motel.

For his most recent spending spree, Burks could be given a maximum of 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison when Justice Burns sentences him on Dec. 5.


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