NEWINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — Newington police arrested a Bloomfield man for allegedly participating in a gift card and loyalty card scam at Wood-n-Tap restaurants in Connecticut, authorities said.
Beginning in 2020, Calvin Ortique of Bloomfield, allegedly obtained information about gift card numbers and redeemed them from the Hartford Restaurant Group’s Wood-n-Tap restaurants.
Police said Ortique, 34, obtained over 25,000 gift card numbers from a point-of-sale system that managed loyalty and gift card numbers. Ortique and other unnamed co-conspirators are accused of using the stolen card numbers to make fraudulent e-gift cards.
The Newington Police Department said $20,000 in stolen balances were redeemed, but as much as $200,000 in gift card balances were compromised, according to a spokesperson for the Hartford Restaurant Group.
Over $3,000 of the illegal gift cards were used by other suspects, which they likely received from Ortique.
The affected gift cards were purchased in the fall and winter of 2020. The impacted cards had values ranging from $30 to $700, according to police. Restaurant guests around the state found that their cards had no value when they tried to redeem them.
The Hartford Restaurant Group said the stolen balances were used at up to seven Wood-n-Tap locations in the state. Ortique mostly used the gift cards at the Newington location but also went to Hartford, Rocky Hill, Farmington, Vernon, Hamden, Wallingford and Southington.
In 2020, when restaurants sold alcohol to-go due to the pandemic, Ortique used the gift cards to buy margarita kits, old-fashioned kits and expensive, bottles of bourbon, according to court documents.
When Ortique and his wife dined in, their checks sometimes had up to 20 alcoholic drinks on them when they would bring friends. They allegedly ordered several high-end bourbons, tequilas, IPAs and Hennessey.
Ortique was charged with first-degree computer crimes, first-degree forgery, first-degree identity theft, first-degree larceny and first-degree conspiracy larceny.
“Our first priority is our guests, and we felt we owed it to them to find out how this happened, who was impacted by the theft, and—most importantly—how to make things right for our guests,” said Phil Barnett, co-CEO of the Hartford Restaurant Group. “We understand that guests were disappointed and inconvenienced when they went to use their legitimate cards that had been unknowingly compromised. While we were investigating, we replaced funds on hundreds of cards as they were brought to our attention. Once we had the answers, including gift card numbers that were illegally obtained, we went to great lengths to contact guests and reload their cards. We apologize to anyone who was affected by this incident.”
Ortique is currently employed with the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT). He has been on administrative leave since Aug. 3.
The Newington Police Department is asking anyone with information on the gift card scheme to contact them at 860-666-8445.