Authorities charged 17 people connected to a major credit and debit card fraud ring based in Queens following a yearlong investigation, prosecutors announced on Thursday.
According to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, the suspects used the stolen credit and debit card account information to make purchases at department stores and other establishments in New York City, Long Island and Rockland County between December 2014 and May 2015. Police allege that several of the suspects were active gang members.
During its investigation and ensuring court-authorized searches, police reportedly recovered card readers, embossers and other equipment used for credit and debit card forgery along with more than $11,000 in cash, three vehicles, a loaded .40-caliber Glock firearm, 41 marijuana plants, two 5-gallon containers full of marijuana and high-intensity lights known to be used for growing pot indoors.
The joint operation was conducted by the NYPD Financial Crimes Task Force, Intelligence Bureau, 105th Precinct, Organized Crime Control Bureau-Asset Forfeiture, Detective Bureau-Warrant Squad and Queens District Attorney’s Office.
The counterfeiting crew has been variously charged in six indictments with the crimes of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, fourth-degree grand larceny, petit larceny, attempted petit larceny and third-degree unlawful possession of personal identification information, Brown said. The defendants each face up to seven years in prison if convicted.
“The indictments are the result of a yearlong investigation by my Economic Crimes Bureau and the New York City Police Department’s Financial Crimes Task Force and included seven months of court-authorized wiretaps, physical and video surveillance and thousands of intercepted telephone calls,” Brown said. “It is alleged that this fraud ring was basically made up of a loose affiliation of friends — all between 20 and 28 in age — who helped each other out with manufacturing and using forged cards to make purchases at Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Target and even Pathmark and Waldbaums supermarkets. Their alleged crimes victimized not just the businesses — costing them thousands of dollars in losses — but the consumers whose personal identification information was used to carry out the scheme.”
Fourteen of the 17 defendants were arraigned on Wednesday in Queens County Supreme Court, while 15 remain in police custody. Two of the individuals are currently being sought.
The defendants are Alexis Arrellano, 23, of Baldwin, Long Island; Deemy Balbuena, 20, of Freeport, Long Island; Jasmine Blair, 27, of Jamaica, Queens, who is presently being sought; Dashawn Coggins (aka Dayday), 27, of Jamaica, Queens, who is presently being sought; Rashem Davis (aka Sheimy), 25, of Jamaica, Queens; Brian Gwenden, 23, of Jamaica, Queens; Peter John (aka Peter Jean Gilles John), 21, of St. Albans, Queens; Omar Majeed, 27, of Jamaica, Queens; Emendjer Mathurni (aka Manny), 24, of Jamaica, Queens; Antoine J. Miller (aka Fatboy), 21, of Flushing, Queens; Amir Mohamed (aka Chop), 24, of Jamaica, Queens; Isijola Olesegun (aka Shea Black), 24, of Jamaica, Queens; Nicholas Pollard, 22, of St. Albans, Queens; Andrew Pottinger (aka Drip), 24, of Queens Village, Queens; Avion Smith (aka Abby), 26, of Hempstead, Long Island; Fendi Vance, 24, of Flushing, Queens; and Vegelia Waters (aka Vegillia O’Conner), 28, of Jamaica, Queens.
An 18th individual, Geovaunni Faucher, 21, of Elmont, Long Island, was arrested and charged with 32 counts of possession of a forged instrument, 32 counts of unlawful possession of personal ID and criminal possession of marijuana in the fifth degree.
According to the indictments, members of the fraud ring purchased the stolen credit and debit card account information from online black market websites. They proceeded to encode the stolen information onto blank cards and physically press the raised numbers and names on the cards. Then they allegedly hired “shoppers” to purchase items from several retailers using the fraudulent cards and proceeded to sell off the stolen goods.
Some of the establishments targeted by the ring include Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s stores in Flushing, Douglaston and the Queens Center mall, W&H Liquors in Hollis, Target stores in Nanuet and Long Island, a Pathmark supermarket in New Hyde Park, and Waldbaums supermarket in College Point.