By Kevin Deutsch
A former Tamarac restaurateur who defrauded customers out of more than $100,000 has been re-arrested for defrauding unsuspecting patrons, this time at the Lauderhill moving company that employed him, court records show.
Bruce Horner, 67, of Pompano Beach, allegedly ripped off customers of Imperial Freight Lines, 7189 W. Oakland Park Blvd., the records show. Horner was responsible for booking moving and relocation services for homeowners, renters, realtors, and other prospective customers of the business, according to an arrest affidavit filed by the Lauderhill Police Department.
During phone conversations with Imperial Freight’s unsuspecting, would-be clients, Horner used “willful misrepresentation” to obtain their account information, then used it to create contracts with fictitious customers, the records show.
Top open fraudulent accounts, Horner used the same bank account information belonging to the actual customers, whose accounts were then withdrawn to the tune of more than $140,000, the affidavit states.
The accused fraudster also stole nearly $29,000 in cash and commissions from Imperial, records allege.
The affidavit states that Horner, formerly of Coral Springs, carried out the alleged fraud at Imperial between November 28, 2021, and March 25, 2022.
Imperial and at least one of Horner’s victims reported the fraud to police, who gathered documents and electronically recorded evidence proving the crimes, records allege.
Horner was arrested at Imperial on March 25. He declined to answer any questions from police, instead requesting an attorney, the affidavit states.
The ex-restaurateur was previously convicted of fraud, according to court records.
In a scheme similar to the one Horner is accused of perpetrating in Lauderhill, he was sentenced to more than seven years in prison in 2008 for stealing credit card numbers from his unsuspecting Tamarac restaurant customers at Wat a Lunch n More, located on West McNab Road, then using the numbers to charge more than $100,000 in fraudulent receipts.
During the scheme, Horner allegedly moved $4.6 million in fraudulently obtained funds from his business to personal accounts, withdrawing more than $400,000 before authorities caught him and an accomplice, according to court records.
Horner pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire fraud, conspiracy, and bank fraud. He was sentenced to more than seven years in federal prison, plus ordered to pay nearly $1 million in restitution for his crimes, records show.
Another man, Arthur Bitterman, 26, was also convicted in the restaurant fraud case.
Records show Horner sold his restaurant in 2007.
In the current case, Horner is charged with multiple crimes including first-degree grand theft, fraudulently obtaining property, and fraudulent misrepresentation.
Records show he was freed from the Broward Main Jail on a $56,000 bond.
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- Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning crime journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has worked on staff at The Miami Herald, New York Daily News, and The Palm Beach Post.