Police in Louisiana have uncovered a sophisticated, Los Angeles-based identity theft ring, thanks to two men who skipped out on their $7 Waffle House bill, authorities say. Waffle House employees called police Saturday, saying two men had stiffed the restaurant and driven away in a U-Haul van. Investigators were still taking statements at the restaurant when patrol officers spotted a U-Haul van parked at a nearby hotel, Pearl River police say. A passenger ran into nearby woods as officers approached, according to Deputy Chief Daniel Hunter. The officers arrested the driver, and a police dog tracked down the passenger. A search of the van turned up fake ID and credit cards, credit card skimming devices—and a Waffle House receipt for $7.41
The investigation revealed "a highly sophisticated identity theft scheme operating out of Los Angeles," Hunter says. He says the driver, Stayshawn D. Stephens, 20, of California, and Richard A. Brown, 18, of Indiana, had flown into New Orleans, rented the van, and installed credit card skimming devices at multiple gas stations in the area to steal customers' credit card numbers. Both were arrested on charges of identity theft, bank fraud, monetary instrument abuse, and theft by fraud, the AP reports. "As long as I am here, we are not going to put up with any of this criminal nonsense, especially from criminals flying in from California and Indiana," Police Chief Johnny "JJ" Jennings said in a news release. "Let this be a lesson on etiquette as well; pay your bill and tip your waitress."