Four Busted for Allegedly Using Wagon Wheel Scam to Steal from Cape May, NJ, Restaurant
Cape May Police have arrested four employees from a restaurant who are suspected of using a scam to steal about $25,000 from the eatery.
According to a Facebook post from the Cape May Police, on "September 20, 2021, a local establishment reported that they believed several employees were utilizing the 'wagon wheel scam' to steal thousands of dollars from their business over the course of several months".
Police said Wednesday they arrested Katarina Zirdum, 31, of Cape May; Bojan Balaban, 28, of Seattle; Verginia Gheorghita, 27, of Miami; and Ana Galesic, 34, of Cape May. Each of the suspects was charged with theft and conspiracy to commit theft.
The investigation revealed that approximately $25,000 had been stolen from this business. The name of the restaurant was not disclosed.
The wagon-wheel method, one of the most commonly used scams in the restaurant industry, involves transferring an item that a server is responsible for making themselves across different checks (known as a ghost check) and then taking the cost of that item for themself.
Here is a hypothetical example of how the wagon wheel scam works.
A table of four people orders multiple appetizers, entrees, and non-alcoholic beverages, which are server-controlled items. The guests pay with cash and the server splits that table’s check into two with food on one and beverage on the other.
The server closes the food check to cash and waits for the perfect moment to reuse the beverages on the other check. The server can then transfer the beverages to the next table’s check that orders them, pocketing the items’ value at least once.
That server can keep shuffling the items from cash check to cash check, pocketing more and more cash with each transfer.
At the end of their shift, they can just close the final transfer to the last cash or non-cash check that ordered them, never needing manager approval for a promotion or void.
The original order of just two coffees that is transferred from one check onto eventually 10 different checks, would allow a server to steal $57 worth of cash for those two cups of coffee.