A co-owner of the former Caffe Aficionado in Rosslyn and two accomplices have been sentenced in connection with a multi-year credit card fraud scheme.
On March 15, co-owner Adiam Berhane, 50, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her role in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said in a press release yesterday (Wednesday). Berhane faced a minimum of two and a maximum of 196 years in prison, per federal sentencing guidelines.
Two people she recruited in the scheme, Tiffany Younger, 51, and Keith Lemons, 56, received less severe penalties. Younger, of D.C., was sentenced Wednesday to 2 years of probation while Lemons, of Clinton, Maryland, was sentenced to time served and six months of home confinement on March 15.
Berhane conspired to carry out a scheme involving stolen credit card information, federal prosecutors said. The fraud lasted until Oct. 2016, when the well-regarded cafe was shut down following a police raid.
Berhane created fraudulent credit cards using stolen identities of D.C. area residents. She recruited Younger and Lemons to purchase gift cards, expensive luxury goods, and other items from local retail stores using these fake credit cards.
“The fraud caused over hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses to area retailers and financial institutions,” according to a press release from the Dept. of Justice.
This included four banks and a handful of stores, such as REI and TJ Maxx, according to information the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney provided to ARLnow six years ago.
“As part of the scheme, items purchased with victims’ credit card information would sometimes be returned for refunds to bank accounts that Berhane controlled,” federal prosecutors said.
Berhane used the fraudulent cards to buy gift cards that she redeemed at Caffe Aficionado.
“More than a third of Caffe Aficionado’s income from June 2013 to July 2016 came from a pattern of highly unusual redemptions of American Express gift cards, with the pattern beginning several months before Caffe Aficionado opened in approximately October 2013,” per the press release.
In December, Berhane was convicted on a litany of charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, trafficking in unauthorized access devices, aggravated identity theft, unlawful possession of 15 or more access devices and possession of access device-making equipment with intent to defraud.
Berhane was initially charged in Arlington County. Her case dragged on for a few years and the charges were ultimately dropped amid accusations that defense attorneys had to process thousands of pages of documents by hand — a rule set by then-Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos. Federal prosecutors subsequently took up the case.
Berhane was previously convicted of a credit card fraud scheme in New York City in the early 2000s.
Her business partner, Clark Donat, was not charged in the federal case. He pleaded guilty to multiple financial crimes in 2017, including credit card fraud, money laundering and racketeering. Court records show he received a 25 year prison sentence with 11 years suspended.
Federal prosecutors, FBI officials and Arlington County Police Chief Andy Penn made yesterday’s announcement after U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga sentenced the final defendant.
The case was prosecuted with help from the Montgomery County Police Department, the FBI Cyber Task Force, the U.S. Postal Office of the Inspector General, the Secret Service and Capitol Police, per the press release.
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The Optimist Club of Arlington is holding its 77th annual Christmas tree sale!
This year, the tree sale will be held at the Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road). The lot opens for sales on November 24th. The Optimist Club is selling small and large trees ranging from tabletop size to 10 foot tall trees! Wreaths, garland, tree stands, and White House Christmas ornaments will also be for sale.
100% of all proceeds go towards helping Arlington County youth.
For more information, please visit the Arlington Optimists website at https://optimistclubofarlingtonva.org/.
Holiday Art Show featuring artists: Peter Fitzgerald, Claire Plante, Alanna Rivera, and Suzy Scollon. At the Barcroft Community House, 800 South Buchanan St., Arlington, VA. Dec. 8 from, 2 PM to 8 PM and Dec. 9 from 10 AM to
2023 Christmas Tree Sales Begin
Saturday, December 2
Get your holiday decorating off to the right start this year! We will be selling 150 Fraser firs, freshly cut and delivered from Sparta, North Carolina.