An Atlanta-area man who through Facebook met a Columbus woman for lunch last May, stole her debit card and withdrew $500 from her bank account pleaded guilty today in Muscogee Superior Court.
Authorities say the 24-year-old victim, a TSYS worker, was able to identify Michael Anthony Barber, 29, through her own online sleuthing after he shut off her access to his Facebook page and would not return her calls or texts. When she met him for the first time in person about 12:30 p.m. May 3 at the 3450 Victory Drive McDonald’s, she knew him only as “Anthony.” They talked in the restaurant’s parking lot for a while before she went inside to buy their lunch. When she came back out, they talked a while longer, and then he told her he had to leave, but would call her later, she said.
After he left, she checked her wallet, and discovered her Columbus Bank & Trust debit card was gone, as was a note upon which she had written the personal identification number to access her account. She checked her balance and saw $500 had been withdrawn.
Bank records later showed the transaction occurred at 1:14 p.m. that day at the bank machine in the Ranger Joe’s parking lot, 4030 Victory Drive.
The woman tried to contact Anthony, but he wouldn’t respond. Facebook said his social media account had been “deleted by user.”
That evening she notified police she had run his telephone number through a “white pages” reverse-lookup application, and got the names Anthony Barber and Michael Barber. On May 6, she found a friend who was still Facebook friends with Barber, and through that friend she saw his Facebook page had his full name and date of birth. Then she sent him a text that read only “Anthony Michael Barber.”
He immediately called her, promised to pay her back, and asked whether he could wire her the money. Police advised her to have no further contact with him, and instead give him a detective’s phone number, which he called twice. He hung up the first time the officer answered, and left no message on his second, unanswered call.
On May 9, detectives got security camera photos from the bank machine to compare with photos the victim got from Barber’s Facebook page. As on the bank machine photos, Barber in one of his Facebook images was wearing a blue Charlotte Hornets cap.
Officers checking his background learned he was on probation, had no driver’s license, and his last known address was in Decatur, Ga. When the victim next met with detectives May 22, she identified Barber from the bank machine photos as the man she had met at McDonald’s.
Authorities in DeKalb County arrested Barber on warrants for financial transaction card theft and financial transaction card fraud, and he was returned to Columbus May 28.
Barber in court today pleaded guilty to each charge, and Judge Gil McBride sentenced him to serve a year in jail followed by six years on probation. He was ordered to repay the victim $500.
As part of his probation, he was ordered to stay off Facebook.