GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Who knew the Hamburgler was manning the drive-thru? Court records show patrons at four Grand Rapids-area McDonald’s got ripped off after workers stole their credit card information.
An investigation by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department found three workers allegedly used their access to copy drive-thru customers’ cards. As a result, thieves racked up more than $50,000 worth of fraudulent purchases, both in store and online, including airline tickets.
“So far, 90 photos and videos of customer’s credit cards have been identified,” a detective wrote in a probable cause affidavit.
The investigator said he had identified 14 victims so far.
“The case is active. It is ongoing,” Kent County Undersheriff Chuck DeWitt said. “There’s the potential that there will be additional victims identified, as well as additional suspects.”
The three now-former McDonald’s employees, all 19 years old, are allegedly members of a gang called SGB, which is well known to the sheriff’s department.
“SGB stands for Strictly Getting Bandz. This group of individuals has been involved in many criminal complaints related to fraud, shootings, robberies, thefts, and other violent crimes,” a detective wrote in a search warrant filed in Kent County’s 63rd District Court.
The term “bandz” refers to rubber bands used to bundle cash.
According to a court document, McDonald’s hired one of the defendants, Shaakir Abdulwahab, in May 2022. That’s the same month he was involved in a shooting that injured two people after a graduation ceremony at the East Kentwood football stadium. Abdulwahab was arrested in connection to the shooting four days after it happened and pleaded guilty in January 2023 to carrying a concealed weapon and having a weapon in a weapon-free school zone.
FOUR MCDONALD’S, THREE MONTHS
The alleged credit card thefts occurred over a couple months, from November 2022 to mid-January 2023, and involved four McDonald’s restaurants:
- 2727 28th St. SW east of Ivanrest Avenue in Wyoming;
- 5105 28th St. SE near I-96 in Cascade Township;
- 1246 Leonard St. NE near Fuller Avenue in Grand Rapids;
- 1865 Baldwin St. near 20th Street in Jenison.
If you think your credit card was copied, the sheriff’s department said you should report it to your local law enforcement agency.
“Since May of 2022, Shaakir Abdulwahab and Quanta Barnes have been involved in capturing credit card information of customers at West Michigan fast food restaurants where they have been employed,” an investigator wrote in another affidavit. “Later joining them in this criminal enterprise was Malik Ramadan in November of 2022. The credit card images have been captured using their cell phones…”
Court documents show Malik Ramadan worked at the 2727 28th St. location and Quanta Barnes was employed at the Baldwin Street McDonald’s. Records do not clarify which McDonald’s employed Shaakir Abulwahab.
“Malik Ramadan has been employed by McDonalds in the city of Wyoming… since November 2022 through 1/15/2023,” a detective wrote in an affidavit. “While employed here Malik would use his Apple Iphone to record the front and back of customers’ credit and debit cards. Malik would use the customer’s card information to purchase many different items.”
The detective went on to explain Ramadan shared the information with Quanta Barnes, who was also copying credit cards.
Barnes and Ramadan are each charged with conducting a criminal enterprise, illegal use of a financial transaction device (credit card) and using a computer to commit a crime. Abdulwahab faces charges of conducting a criminal enterprise and using a computer to commit a crime. Abdulwahab and Ramadan are also charged with being habitual offenders. All three defendants are in the Kent County Jail, facing charges that carry 20 years maximum if convicted.
While the men have prior convictions, their records may have been sealed at the time of their hiring because they were juveniles when arrested.
Target 8 reached out to McDonald’s corporate office for a response but has not heard back.
THE PERFECT WITNESS
It was a Kent County woman who helped the sheriff’s detective build the case. She did not want to be identified by name but told Target 8 she was checking her bank account balance on Jan. 3, something she does every morning.
“I happened to see that I was thrown into the negative, which is super unusual because I’m on it,” the homeschool mom explained to Target 8.
The woman discovered someone had charged $408 worth of “fast lane” groceries using her credit card at the Family Fare on Kalamazoo Avenue SE south of 60th Street, south of Kentwood.
“I have never shopped at the fast lane,” she said. “So I thought, ‘I wonder if they’ve already picked up the order,’ and I decided to go ahead and call Family Fare and ask them.”
The grocery chain immediately investigated.
“(The Family Fare employee) called me back and said, ‘Yeah, I’ve got the (purchase) time, I’ve got video footage and everything, so if you decide to pursue this, I’ve got the goods.’”
“(HE) SCANNED IT AND.. SET IT DOWN”
The woman said it was later that same afternoon that she got a call from a detective with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.
“(He) said, ‘Hey, we’ve figured out already that from what we got from Family Fare (that) this is an individual who works at, most likely, a fast food restaurant that you probably frequented,” she quoted the detective.
That’s when she recalled the unusual experience she had at the 28th Street McDonalds in Wyoming a couple weeks earlier. She was grabbing lunch at the drive-thru to reward her son for making good grades.
“I do remember that (the worker) took the card, scanned it and then he set it down,” she said she remembered. “I thought at the time, ‘OK, maybe he’s taking an order of someone behind me’ because it happened to be at the lunch rush. So I didn’t really think much of it other than normally they give the card right back. So I just waited for him to finish what he was doing and then he grabbed the card and the receipt and handed it to me.”
The alleged thief had picked the wrong target. This victim is so organized that she even keeps receipts from weeks-old trips to McDonald’s.
“(The detective) was like, ‘I am so thankful that somebody had the receipts and the information.’ … He said that this person has been on their radar for a while and that they had been doing it for a while. He was thankful that someone had enough information that they could finally get him.”
The detective explained his next steps in a search warrant:
“(I) contacted McDonald’s and learned that on the date in question, the employee assigned to the drive-thru window was Malik Ramadan,” he wrote. “(I) have extensive knowledge of Malik Ramadan based off prior investigations and arrests.”
CHECK YOUR ACCOUNT TO CATCH FRAUD
Undersheriff Chuck DeWitt urges you to keep your credit card in sight as long as possible and check your bank account regularly.
“That’s going to be the quickest way to identify whether you have fallen victim to this type of crime,” said DeWitt, who also encouraged setting limits on your cards.
The drive-thru customer who shared her story with Target 8 said she was initially worried about how the arrests would affect the young men.
“I felt kind of guilty at first,” she told Target 8. “I had to really think about it and pray about it because if (the fraud) had been an act of desperation, I think I would have felt different. But the amount that they shopped was greed… Hopefully, they’re young enough they can learn from this and grow from this and have a bright future and not keep walking this path they’re on.”
She said she felt violated by the alleged fraud.
“We’re a very technological world so you hand your card over and you never in your wildest dreams think they’re going to steal your information,” she said. “And I have kids at home. This money was needed. It was grocery money and bill money.”
She noted she did not have to cover the fraudulent transaction.