ABC 10 News

SAN DIEGO - A man accused of ripping of limo companies, high-end hotels, and even big-time car dealerships in a credit card scam was caught with the help of two men -- including one San Diegan.

Charlie Barbero pleaded guilty in Superior Court Friday to identity theft and possession of a stolen vehicle.

The San Diego County District Attorney's Office said he also admitted that he was out on bail from a felony case in Riverside County when he committed the crimes in San Diego.

Adrian Davis runs Five Star Transportation in San Diego. Recently, an alert from his credit card processor, Chosen Payments, warned companies about a fraudster, using a fake authorization code to book limo rides.

Davis got the alert and then a few weeks later, ran into the man himself when he tried to book a limousine.

"It was very nerve-racking," Davis said. Barbero's alleged scheme works through a declined credit card. He then pretended to call his bank to get an authorization code forcing the transaction to go through -- but he made up the code. The bank does not check on it until later, leaving the companies on the hook for the money and Barbero long gone.

"I've never, in my career, seen anything this large in regards to the type of fraud it was," said Jeff Brodsly, CEO of Chosen Payments.

Brodsly said the scam cost his clients more than $300,000.

He and Davis helped catch Barbero in the act.

"I was looking at every move he was doing," Davis said.

Barbero tried to use a fake code to get his card approved, but Davis and Brodsly did not let him get away with it. After they declined his card, Davis flagged down a police officer.

The fraudster, according to a search warrant affidavit, was accused of victimizing 89 banks and businesses.

Brodsly has one message for the con man.

"What's wrong with you? There's people that work really, really hard for a living," Brodsly said. "We can all make money legitimately."

Barbero is expected to be sentenced to four years in prison when he is sentenced in July.

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