Williamsburg, NY – NYPD detectives from the 88th Precinct have a real whodunit on their hands. It is a mystery which began last November with a telephone order for two thousand square feet of imported Italian porcelain tile – an estimated 8,500 pounds of it – from the Tile Depot of New York in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, an Orthodox Jewish establishment.
According to a report in the New York Times (http://nyti.ms/VkhYdr), Joel Mertz, the store manager, took the order by phone from a man named Peter who claimed he was calling from Boston, but was working on a house in New York City. Peter, whose last name is being withheld, authorized the $6,859.13 charge to his American Express card. He sent an e-mail to Mr. Mertz with the AMEX card number, expiration date, and security code. Peter even sent a scanned, handwritten letter of authorization for the purchase and provided a home address in North Carolina. Peter also scanned and e-mailed a copy of the front and back of the AMEX card, as well as a copy of his passport.
AMEX approved the nearly $7,000 purchase, and Tile Depot arranged to have the tiles shipped through FreightCenter.com, a third party company that finds trucking companies willing to haul loads to its consumers. In this instance, FreightCenter.com hired the New Penn trucking company based in Pennsylvania, and three pallets of porcelain tiles were loaded onto the New Penn truck. The bill of lading read “residential delivery” to an address on Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn, just a few blocks from Tile Depot.
Several weeks later, a North Carolina man, with the same name and address used by “Peter,” discovered he had been a victim of identity theft when he noticed the tile and other purchases on his AMEX statement. The real Peter called AMEX to report the fraud, which resulted in a charge-back to Sol Mertz, the owner of the Tile Depot. Mertz further learned that AMEX had also declined to pay the delivery service fee.
According to a FreightCenter.com representative, the thieving Peter had also used the trucking company for other deliveries during the same time period. And the passport which had been sent to Mertz as proof of identity was also fraudulent.
No one knows where the tiles wound up. A receipt shows that the delivery was made to the Lafayette Avenue address and was signed for by a Jonathan Miller. But the building it was ostensibly delivered to was a run-down three story building – the kind of place that needs more urgent repairs than the installation of expensive Italian tiles. A 25-year-old man living at the property said he had lived there his whole life with his mother and knew nothing about the delivery.
For now, the police are trying to ascertain why the thief or thieves selected this particular address for their delivery, and if they arranged to have another truck meet the delivery in order to transfer the goods before making their escape.