"Right now, we really don't know what we've got," Meehan told reporters at a news conference at the Center City headquarters of the Secret Service.
Meehan said that because one defendant worked in the Old Philadelphia Tavern in Terminal A of Philadelphia International Airport, there could be victims nationwide.
The second site of alleged card cloning was Bistro Saint Tropez, at 2400 Market St. in Center City.
The scheme is believed to have started at the two restaurants in March, Meehan said, and ended Thursday evening with the arrest of the alleged leader, Faker Bensalem, 25, outside his apartment on West Street Road in Warminster.
Bensalem was charged with conspiracy, credit-card fraud and false statements involving his alleged attempt to obtain a U.S. passport under the name Murrey Alwahid Avant. Yesterday afternoon, Bensalem was brought before a federal magistrate judge, who ordered him held pending a bail hearing Wednesday.
Also charged yesterday was Bensalem's alleged associate, Anis Kalthoumi, 27, of Gravel Hill Road in Southampton, Bucks County.
According to federal court documents, Kalthoumi was arrested Tuesday and immediately signed a confession and agreed to help agents build the case against Bensalem, including recording a series of phone calls on Wednesday.
Kalthoumi also appeared in court yesterday on charges of credit-card fraud. He was released on $50,000 bail after he posted $10,000 and the deed of a house he owns on Porter Street in South Philadelphia.
Kalthoumi will be under 24-hour arrest in his Southampton home.
His attorney, Gregory F. Lepore, declined comment.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Pease said both men were permanent-resident aliens legally in the United States. Both would face deportation if convicted, he said.
According to prosecution documents filed in court, the investigation began May 8 when an American Express corporate-fraud investigator contacted the Secret Service in Philadelphia.
The documents said the investigator told authorities about stolen credit-card numbers and counterfeited American Express cards that appeared to originate at the two restaurants.
Paul Fera, owner of the Old Philadelphia Tavern, identified Kalthoumi as a likely suspect, partly because Kalthoumi worked at both restaurants.
Kalthoumi's arrest and alleged cooperation led to Thursday's arrest of Bensalem and the search of his Warminster apartment.
Pease said agents found in Bensalem's apartment equipment needed to counterfeit credit cards, including a personal computer and a device to program the magnetic credit card strip, an embosser to imprint the raised lettering on the cards, about 50 counterfeit cards, and $30,000.
Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2658 or firstname.lastname@example.org.