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Young computer scammer leads Rikers Island class – QNS.com

Young computer scammer leads Rikers Island class

By Laura Rodell

Shiva Sharma, a 20-year-old computer whiz, is making the most of his time at Rikers Island jail complex, where he awaits sentencing on charges of identity fraud. Accused of scamming $50,000 from AOL and Amazon.com customers, “he faces three to six years [in prison] but I think it will actually be more like two to three,” said Millie Pacheco, Sharma's counselor at the jail's high school, Horizon Academy. Her confidence in the computer-savvy student stems from Sharma's performance since arriving at Riker's in October. “He's the most motivated person you could ever find and just so bright, well-spoken and articulate,” Pacheco continued. Sharma proudly received his GED and graduated as the valedictorian of Horizon Academy at a ceremony Sunday. The academy's principal, Gloria Ortiz, noted that Sharma “received lots of awards and honors last weekend, including one for 'outstanding achievement in computer technology,'” in a not-so-subtle twist of fate. “I know. I thought about [the irony] too. I'm just trying to stay away from computers.” Sharma quipped in an interview with the Daily News. On hand were Sharma's wife, Damaris, and the couple's 3-week-old daughter, Bella Marie, whose first glimpse of her father was an impressive one. “He was ecstatic – thrilled to be graduating and meeting his newborn for the very first time,” Pacheco said. “He said he kept thinking about his child's future and is looking forward to running an autoshop once he leaves.”Rikers Island houses detainees or those who cannot post bail, and not prisoners, so Sharma was not required to attend school. His determination to stay out of prison, however, led him to pursue academics anyway. “While most of the people living here are playing cards or watching TV, he voluntarily made the choice to come to school and, each day, got a pass from an officer to attend,” Ortiz said.Sharma has two prior identity fraud convictions, neither of which brought a prison sentence. He has not yet entered a plea and his next court appearance is scheduled for July 13, according to Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. Reach reporter Laura Rodell by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 139

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