By Jeremy Walsh
Two Rego Park women have been charged with identity theft after they made nearly $70,000 in unauthorized purchases using fraudulent credit cards, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
Consuelo Hernandez, 44, and Rhina Landaverde, 45, who share an apartment on Saunders Street, were charged with grand larceny, forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument and identity theft. They were awaiting arraignment last week. If convicted, they face up to 15 years in prison.
“Unraveling the financial damage caused by the defendants' alleged fraud could take the victims months or even years to re-establish their good credit.”
Hernandez and Landaverde allegedly opened 19 credit card accounts using the names of a married couple who lived in the apartment before them, the DA said.
After her arrest, Hernandez admitted to faking the signatures of the victims and applying for the cards, Brown said.
Katia and Yaniv Shpilberg moved out in August 2006, authorities said, filing a change of address form with the U.S. Postal Service so that the couple's mail would be forwarded to their new residence in central New Jersey.
But on May 4, 2007, the Postal Service received an online change of address form allegedly from the Shpilbergs, indicating that they wanted their mail forwarded from their New Jersey address back to their former Rego Park address, Brown said.
Katia Shpilberg soon noticed her address had been changed without her knowledge or permission and reversed the change of address, authorities said.
On June 10, 2008, the Postal Service once again received a request to have the couple's mail forwarded to their former Queens address.
Soon after, Port Authority Police Department and the Postal Service investigators discovered that between January 2007 and June 2008, various unauthorized credit card accounts — including MasterCard, American Express, Bank of America and Citibank — had been opened using the Shpilbergs' name and the Saunders Street address as the billing and mailing address, Brown said.
The outstanding balances ranged from $8,000 to more than $30,000 and included a number of airline tickets in the names of the defendants, Hernandez and Landaverde, Brown said. The balances also included the $1 fees for the change of address requests, the DA said.
When police searched the apartment last Thursday, they allegedly found the credit cards and forged New York state IDs with the defendants' photos and the purported signatures of the victims, Brown said.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.