ORLANDO, Fla. — If it weren't for those fake credit cards, Melvin Mack Gatlin would have been a valued Central Florida tourist for his generous spending.

  • Gatlin admitted fraud during Orlando visit in 2018
  • Georgia man sentenced to 4 years in federal prison
  • Orlando-based judge ordered Gatlin to pay back $7,000 

Money didn’t seem to be a problem for Gatlin during his Orlando visit in April 2018. But his fraudulent credit-card spending spree in Central Florida ended after three days and $7,000 in charges. Now he's heading to federal prison for four years.

The spree began when the Georgia man booked a three-night stay with Westgate Resorts for $1,042, checking in on April 1, 2018.

On his second day at the resort, he bought 11 tickets for a Disney park in a Westgate gift shop for $1,582. 

The next day, he spent nearly $2,000 for 11 more theme-park tickets.

That’s the same day security officials at the resort learned that Gatlin, who booked his stay under the name of Robert Pell of Illinois, made fraudulent transactions and contacted Orlando Police.

An officer found Gatlin that evening by the pool and asked for his identification. Gatlin gave his real name and showed his Georgia driver’s license. 

Gatlin, 34, of Tucker, a small town near Atlanta, told the officer that Pell checked him in but that he didn’t know Pell very well.

Officers detained him and found he was carrying an Illinois driver’s license in Pell’s name and four credit cards in Pell’s name.

Gatlin agreed to let officers search his vehicle, a Range Rover SUV, where they found four more credit cards in Pell’s name.

“Officers also found that all eight credit cards had been re-encoded so that charges would be incurred on other stolen credit card accounts,’’ a federal criminal complaint says.

After waiving his right to remain silent, Gatlin admitted the cards were fake and that he purchased them on the "dark web" about a month earlier. 

“Gatlin advised he lost his job and came down here with his wife to figure out what to do,” an Orlando Police report said. “Gatlin advised he used the counterfeit card to check (into) the hotel and to purchase the Disney tickets, which were already used by his family.

He also told them they would find a laptop and credit-card encoder that he used for the scam in his room at the Westgate Palace Resort. They did.

He was indicted in Orlando on a federal complaint alleging three counts of credit card fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. 

Gatlin pleaded guilty to those charges on June 17, 2019. 

U.S. District Judge G. Kendall Sharp on Thursday sentenced Gatlin to four years in federal prison. 

After leaving prison, Gatlin will be on supervised release for two years. He also must pay $7,184 in restitution. The hotel and park tickets cost about $4,500.

Other fradulent charges not were detailed in court documents.

The U.S. Secret Service investigated with help from Orlando police. Assistant U.S Attorney Dana E. Hill prosecuted.