A former pizza parlor owner facing fraud charges told police he needed the money to pay off a gambling debt in Costa Rica, according to an arrest warrant.
Elvan Kocak, 28, was arrested Sunday for schemes to defraud and criminal use of personal identification. Kocak owned Celino's Pizza on Cesery Boulevard until recently.
Police say Kocak funneled $20,000 from unsuspecting customers.
Dozens of patrons complained about being hit with large bills of being hit with large bills for hundreds from the pizzeria, even though their purchase was for under $30.
First Coast News initially reported on the complaints in March of 2017 and October of 2017. In January of 2018, the North Florida Financial Crimes Task Force began interviewing the 34 of the victims named in the warrant. Victims reported charges of between $100 and $350 being drained from their bank account by Celino's Pizza.
Kocak's employees told investigators they were unaware of the crime but found it strange that Kocak often asked them to purchase money orders for him to send to Costa Rica. One employee reported purchasing "$15,000 in money grams for Kocak."
In an interview with the United States Secret Service on November 19, the warrant says Kocak admitted to skimming from his credit card processing company money to pay off a $4,000 debt. Once the debt was paid, Kocak told authorities he continued with the scam to pay off his gambling debt in Costa Rica.
Kocak directed most of the victims to go to their bank to dispute the charge.
His next court date is January 8.