Six men in four states have been arrested for stealing credit card numbers from diners at a Lowcountry, S.C., restaurant.

The thieves swiped cards used to pay for meals through a small scanning device that is slightly larger than a pager, police said.

The device stores the card’s information so it can be downloaded into a computer. The information then can be used to create duplicate cards with the same account numbers and different names, authorities said.

The men bought thousands of dollars of merchandise with the fraudulent cards, Charleston, S.C., police said.

State and federal investigators think the thefts were carried out by someone who briefly worked at the Osaka restaurant in February. They say the thefts stopped when the thief left Charleston.

The Secret Service said it arrested three suspects in New Jersey, one on Long Island, N.Y., one in New Haven, and one outside Philadelphia. They face federal charges of credit card fraud.

Investigators have looked into the possibility that the thefts are linked to Asian organized crime groups. All six suspects arrested are Asian, authorities said.

–Associated Press