Waitress accused of using stolen debit card after customer tracked purchases back to her

DENVER - A missing debit card leads a man to become his own detective to track down the thief.

After eating lunch at Rome's Saloon in Denver late last month, Jeff Brekhus couldn't find his company debit card when he needed it the next morning.

He called the saloon, but no one could find it. He said he went in at lunch to ask the waitress if she had seen it, but she wasn't there. Co-workers gave him her cell phone number, but he said she didn't reply to the text.

That same day, he discovered his card was being used multiple times.

"About $1,810," said Brekhus.

Here's the breakdown of the spending:

-$470: Sports Authority

-$284: Ulta

-$223: Victoria's Secret

-$203: Macy's

-$157: Macy's

-$122: Target

-$82: Proactiv

-$70: Nail salon

With the help of the owner of Rome's Saloon, Brekhus said he saw surveillance video of the waitress, Ashleigh Padilla, taking his card.

"She came to the table and scooped up my credit card, along with some of the plates she was picking up, and that's how we know, for sure, she had it," said Brekhus. "It's kind of ironic, I 30 percent tipped her and she stole my credit card on top of that."

With a photo of Padilla with him, Brekhus went to all the stores where purchases were made. He asked each store if she had made the purchases. He said most of the stores checked their surveillance and confirmed she was the person who made the purchases.

"They couldn't show me the video, but they were able to look at the video and look at a photo and say it was a positive ID at that point," said Brekhus.

He said many of the stores were at Southwest Plaza, where his account could have been emptied faster at other stores.

"In between (Macy's and Victoria's Secret), I look down and there are these jewelry stores, I was happy she didn't go down there," said Brekhus.

After compiling transaction information from his debit card company and receiving confirmation from the individual stores, Brekhus texted Padilla once more.

"I said,'Nevermind, I see you found it. Macy's, Victoria's Secret, Sports Authority, Proactiv. We're coming after you,'" said Brekhus.

He said he knew she was at work again, so he called police. He said the first time he called, he was told to talk to a detective in the morning. Brekhus said he called back 30 minutes later to tell police that he was going inside to confront her. About 90 minutes later, he said an officer met him outside the bar.

"Officer came over and looked at all of our information, (the) positive ID and the photos and went in and came out with her in handcuffs," said Brekhus.

She was arrested and charged with misdemeanor theft. Police said they found two other stolen credit cards in her purse.

Only one of the charges required a signature. He had a copy of a $70 charge for a gift card at a nail salon that had a scribble for a signature. The majority of the purchases never required the card to be touched by a cashier.

Brekhus said at least one of the charges occurred after he already reported his card missing.

"The one at Ulta shows that the card was 'lost and stolen,' 'transaction on a hot card' and it still went through. I don't know how that works," said Brekhus.

The money was automatically withdrawn since it was a debit card and because it's a business account, Brekhus may have a hard time getting all his money back. Though, he said some of the businesses are refunding the money.

"I don't know how she's going to be able to refund this on any level," said Brekhus. "Now she's unemployed, she's going to have an ever harder time paying me back."

The saloon's owner told 7NEWS that Padilla had only worked there for a couple of weeks.

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