By Rich Bockmann and Philip Newman
Thirteen people have been charged in what authorities said was a Queens-based criminal enterprise that took in millions in a system that stole bank and personal identification data to finance a vast criminal shopping spree.
“Credit card fraud and identity continue to flourish as more and more financial transactions occur over the Internet,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. “These crimes cost millions of dollars in losses to consumers, businesses and financial institutions and will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted.”
A spokeswoman for the Queens DA said the fraud operation was headquartered in Queens but her office was “not at this point ready to say exactly where.”
Brown said the defendants have been charged with fraudulently obtaining credit card account numbers through various means, which were then used to manufacture forged credit and identification cards.
Once the counterfeit cards were made, so-called shoppers were sent out on shopping expeditions all over and beyond the New York City area, including Long Island, upstate New York and New Jersey as well as Delaware, Florida and Pennsylvania to buy merchandise using fake credit cards, stolen accounts numbers and personal ID information, according to the indictment.
The defendants are accused of reselling the purchased items and returning some items to get the cash. The ring targeted certain businesses, such as Best Buy, The Home Depot, Loehmann’s, Walgreens and Sephora, prosecutors said.
Brown identified the defendants as Isijola Olusegan, 21, of Elmont, L.I., the alleged boss; Darcel Kirby, 46, of Elmont, L.I., the alleged underboss; Barakat Abiola, 23, of Brooklyn; Simone Abraham, 29, 145 Shore Ave., Jamaica; James Bartholomew, 27, 323 Beach 40th St., Rockaway; Michael Cruz, 31, 227-14 11th Ave., Queens Village; Michael Ferguson, 26, of Brooklyn; Nichol Freerman, 26, of 117-68 Marsden St., Jamaica; Shanell James, 21, of Brooklyn; Crystal Brown, of Brooklyn; Maiesha Lovejoy, 21, 115-34 166th St. of Jamaica; Louise Morpeau, 21, 195-06 Woodhull Ave., Hollis; Aria Parhan, 22, 9224-B Holland Ave., Rockaway Beach; and Sarah Powell, 24, 89-37 Hollis Court Blvd,, Queens Village.
All are awaiting arraignment before Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter. They are variously charged with identification theft, grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument, falsifying business records, petit larceny, scheme to defraud and fifth-degree conspiracy.
Brown said authorities learned of the alleged Queens ring in October as part of an investigation into a massive $13 million credit card and identity fraud ring with a worldwide reach called “Operation Swiper,” which was dismantled after 111 people were arrested and indicted.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.