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Ring leader pleads guilty in gift card racket

The ring leader of a group that turned stolen credit cards into discount gift cards admitted to multiple felony charges in Erie County Court this week.

Christopher McCullen, 45, of Buffalo pleaded guilty before Judge Sheila A. DiTullio to first-degree scheming to defraud and seven counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree.

McCullen was arrested in September for his part in organizing the ring that broke into vehicles parked where they could assume the drivers were not returning immediately – at gyms, restaurants, parks and theaters – and stole credit cards left behind. The thefts occurred between April and December 2014 at parking areas in Buffalo, Amherst, Tonawanda and Depew.

After the thefts, female accomplices used the credit cards to buy gift cards. The gift cards were then sold at discount prices for cash.

Nine other defendants involved in the fraud already have pleaded guilty.

Sentencing for McCullen is scheduled for Nov. 30.

The District Attorney’s Office praised Amherst Police Detective John Trabert, Cheektowaga Lt. Mark Jedd, Niagara Falls Detective Mark Jaroszewski and Tonawanda Detective Brian Moline for their work on the case.

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