Former restaurant GM accused of selling gift cards at half face value

A former manager of a popular Clearwater restaurant is accused of stealing almost $100,000. Police say he fraudulently used an online gift card system to his own advantage.

Scott Szalay, 32, previously worked as general manager at Clear Sky on Cleveland. According to his arrest affidavit, in August of 2017, he entered into a contract with Valutec Card Solutions to initiate a virtual online terminal which could be used to activate and monetize Clear Sky Cafe gift cards. 

Over the next nine months, the terminal was used for 29 "apparently legitimate" transactions, totaling $876.34

But in May of this year, things took a turn. The report says Szalay was transferred to another Clear Sky location "against his will" after telling supervisors he was considering a new job. Investigators say that over the next three months, he used the virtual terminal to conduct 284 transactions totaling $94,350. Police say that about $40,000 of that was actually redeemed.

The report says that numerous witnesses testified that Szalay sold high-dollar gift cards at 50-percent face value. Investigators say none of that money was deposited into Clear Sky Cafe's accounts.

Szalay was arrested Thursday and charged with scheming to defraud.

"I just feel badly for them. You know, they just started down here," said Dauri Kowitz, a loyal customer. "I'm glad the person was caught and I'm glad that person is no longer there and I still love the place."

There are still a lot of questions, such as how all of this came to light and what happens to the gift cards sold by Szalay. But neither Clearwater Police Department nor the restaurant would comment further on this story.  

We also reached out to Szalay, who has since bonded out of jail, but did not get a response.