Former owner of Fort Point Channel hardware store charged with defrauding customers
A Fort Point Channel building made infamous two years ago with the strange death of an MIT-trained artist is once again the focus of a criminal investigation - this time for massive credit-card fraud.
The Suffolk County District Attorney's office today charged Erik Joseph, former owner of Seaport Hardware, 369 Congress St., with defrauding customers across New England out of several hundred thousand dollars since 2005.
The store is in the same building as that meth lab that turned out not to be a meth lab where artist Kevin McCormick died in unusual circumstances in 2005.
Joseph, a Belmont resident, pleaded innocent at his arraignment this morning in South Boston District Court, according to the DA's office. Bail was set at $75,000.
According to prosecutors, Joseph set up a series of bogus companies to suck out and launder money from the accounts of people who paid for hardware purchases with credit cards. In a statement, the DA's office cited one example:
Joseph allegedly used a dummy business – for which he had obtained an American Express merchant number, a post office box, and a bank account – to bill the customer's credit card for $8,087 in 43 separate charges of less than $200 in the weeks and months that followed. That money, [DA Dan] Conley said, was deposited into a corresponding bank account, which Joseph later emptied and closed.
Prosecutors said they, a statewide financial-crimes task force and the US Postal Service were not done investigating Joseph, but that they sought charges against him now because he sold the store last month and was emptying his legitimate bank accounts, making them worry he was getting ready to flee the area. Boston Police arrested him in Belmont on Tuesday.
Even before the indictment, Joseph, a 1980 Emerson College graduate, got a couple of bad Yelp reviews.