Stole From Retailers And Consumers
Thirteen individuals have been indicted in connection with an identity theft and credit card fraud ring that routinely stole bank account and personal identification information using the Internet to fund nationwide shopping sprees, it was announced.
Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said that between June 24, 2011 and Mar. 23, the defendants allegedly defrauded scores of unsuspecting consumers, retailers and financial institutions.
The suspects were identified as follows:
– Isijola Olusegan (a.k.a. Shea Black), 21, of Elmont, the alleged boss;
– Darcel Kirby (a.k.a. Roxy), 46, of Elmont, the alleged underboss;
– Barakat Abiola (a.k.a. Lami), 23, of Brooklyn;
– Simone Abraham (a.k.a. School Safety), 29, of Jamaica;
– Jamel Bartholomew, 27, of Rockaway;
– Michael Cruz, 31, of Queens Village;
– Michael Ferguson (a.k.a. Mooley), 26, of Brooklyn;
– Nicole Freeman, 26, of Jamaica;
– Shanell James (a.k.a. Nora, a.k.a. Crystal Brown) 21, of Brooklyn;
– Maiesha Lovejoy, 21, of Jamaica;
– Louise Morpeau, 21, of Hollis;
– Ari Parhan, 22, of Rockaway Beach; and
– Sarah Powell, 24, of Queens Village.
They are variously charged with first-, second- and third-degree identity theft; third- and fourth-degree grand larceny; first- and second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument; first-degree falsifying business records; petit larceny; firstdegree scheme to defraud and fifthdegree conspiracy.
“Credit card fraud and identity theft continue to flourish as more and more financial transactions occur over the Internet,” Brown said in a statement last Wednesday, Aug. 8. “These crimes costs millions of dollars in losses to consumers, businesses and financial institutions and will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted.”
According to the indictment, the defendants fraudulently obtained credit card account numbers through various means, which were then used to manufacture forged credit and identification cards. Once the counterfeit cards were created, according to the indictments, they were ultimately given to “shoppers” who were sent out on shopping expeditions all over the New York area including Long Island, Upstate and New Jersey, as well as Delaware, Florida and Pennsylvania to shop using counterfeit credit cards, stolen account and personal identification information, counterfeit currency and counterfeit traveler’s cheques.
The suspects allegedly resold the purchased items or in some cases- such as when using traveler’s cheques-returned the items for cash. Among the retailers allegedly targeted by the defendants are Best Buy, Home Depot, Loehmann’s, Walgreens and Sephora.
Authorities learned of the alleged ring as part of the investigation of a massive $13 million credit card and identity fraud ring with a worldwide reach-dubbed “Operation Swiper” -that was dismantled last October with the arrests and indictments of 111 defendants.
Of those defendants, 75 have pleaded guilty to date-including several of the lead defendants such as Travis Lootawan, 23, who pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption and was sentenced to 5 1/3 to 16 years in prison; Sanjay Deowsarran, 38, who pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption and was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison; Ali Khweiss, 26, who pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption and was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison; Amar Singh, 33, who pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption and was sentenced to 5 1/3 to 10 2/3 years in prison; and Jonathan Ortiz, 26, who pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption and was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison.
The investigation was conducted by Detectives Edwin Romero and Enrico Morriello of the NYPD under the supervision of Lt. Ruperto Aguilar and the command of Deputy Inspector Gregory T. Antonsen of the Financial Crimes Task Force and the overall supervision of Deputy Chief Jeremiah Quinlan, commander of the Special Investigations Division, and Chief of Detectives Phil T. Pulaski.
Brown expressed his thanks to Postal Inspector Stephen Donnelly of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the supervision of Assistant Inspector in Charge Richard Vignogna, and the overall supervision of Inspector in Charge Ronald Verrochio and Special Agent Kisha Williams, under the supervision of Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge Michael J. Donaghey, and the overall supervision of Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Sica.
Assistant District Attorney Morgan A. Goulet of the Economic Crimes Bureau is prosecuting the case with the assistance of paralegal Kathleen P. Feeney, under the supervision of Gregory C. Pavlides, bureau chief, and Christina Hanophy, deputy bureau chief, and the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for Investigations Peter A. Crusco and Deputy Executive Assistant District Attorney Linda M. Cantoni.
It was noted that an indictment is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.