Hundreds of thousands of people may have had their personal information stolen as a result of a huge credit card fraud ring that law enforcement agents busted in Queens this week, prosecutors announced on Thursday.
Thirty people, in all, have been named in two indictments totaling 662 criminal counts for their involvement in the complex identity theft operation that, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, cost individuals, banks, credit card companies and businesses more than $3.5 million in damages since at least April of 2015.
Within the last week, law enforcement agents executed 24 search warrants in Queens and Nassau County at the homes of the indicted suspects. Brown said that they seized more than $400,000 in cash, gold coins and bars, five vehicles, three firearms, card skimmers and readers, blank credit cards, fake identification, illegally purchased items and binders containing the personal information of hundreds of thousands of victims.
Additionally, detectives shut down four mills located on the Roosevelt Avenue corridor in western Queens where fake credit cards and other documents containing the stolen personal information of victims were produced.
“Many of the defendants charged today are accused of going on shopping sprees, purchasing tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of high-end electronics and fashion merchandise at a single clip with forged credit cards that contained the account information of unsuspecting consumers,” Brown said in a statement on March 9.
The indictments and seizures were the result of a joint investigation that the NYPD Identity Theft Squad and the Queens District Attorney’s Economic Crimes Bureau began in April of 2015. They obtained information from the suspects through physical surveillance and court-authorized wiretaps of phone calls between the defendants. Brown said that thousands of conversations were intercepted, many of which had to be translated from Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu or Spanish into English.
During the investigation, detectives learned that Muhammad Rana, 40, of 93rd Avenue in Jamaica led the entire credit card fraud ring with the assistance of Inderjeet (aka Goya or Sonu) Singh, 24, of 112th Street in Jamaica. They employed Ranvie (aka Rick) Seepersaud of Lynbrook, NY, a salesman at a car dealership who went about stealing victims’ personal information, including those of his own customers.
Several business owners were among those named in the indictments for colluding with the credit card ring to steal identities.
Once they obtained the victims’ personal information, others in the operation worked to produce fraudulent credit or debit cards, or posed as the victims themselves in contacting financial institutions to requests lines of credit or to authorize high-end purchases.
The ring also employed a group of shoppers — including Shampa Zaman, 46, of 180th Street in Jamaica, a popular Bengali singer — who would visit retailers such as Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Apple and The Home Depot to purchase items including electronics, jewelry and gift cards with the stolen credit cards.
Rana, Singh, Seepersaud and the following 16 people were named as principal defendants in an indictment charging them variously with grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, criminal possession of a forged instrument, forgery, falsifying business records, petit larceny and conspiracy:
- Ranjet (aka Vicky) Singh, 30, of 143rd Street in Jamaica;
- Balwinder (aka Jack) Singh, 36, of 125th Street in Richmond Hill;
- Ankit Chadha, 29, of 56th Avenue in Elmhurst;
- John Doe (aka Billa), age unknown, of 170th Street in Jamaica;
- Kamaljot Singh, 24, of 118th Street in Jamaica;
- Shingara (aka Sandhu) Singh, 28, of 170th Street in Jamaica;
- Sukhjinder (aka Sukha) Singh of 32nd Street in Astoria;
- Tajinder (aka Mickie), 25, of 101st Avenue in Jamaica;
- Tanveer (aka Sunny), 25, of Lefferts Boulevard in Jamaica (currently in custody on unrelated charges);
- Moshin (aka Chacha) Khan, 59, of 126th Street in Jamaica;
- John Doe (aka Vinny Maksudpuri), who was arrested at his home in Michigan and is awaiting extradition;
- Alejandro Gayosso (aka Amigo or Cano), 46, of 50th Avenue in Corona;
- John Doe (aka Pocho or Salinas), age unknown, of Saultell Avenue in Corona;
- Gauruv Chhabra, 33, of Grand Central Parkway in Queens; and
- Pradeep (aka Bobby) Grover, 46, of 118th Street in Richmond Hill.
Each defendant faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
The 19 principal defendants, along with Zaman and the following 10 individuals, were named in the second indictment variously charging them with conspiracy, identity theft, grand larceny, attempted grand larceny, criminal possession of a forged instrument, forgery, falsifying business records, unlawful possession of personal identification information and criminal facilitation:
- Captain Singh, 20, of 91st Avenue in Richmond Hill;
- Varinder (aka Binda) Singh, 27, of 125th Street in Richmond Hill;
- Hilda Quadros, 29, of 102nd Avenue in Jamaica;
- Saloman Castillo-Miranda, 26, of 31st Street in Astoria;
- Muhammad Iqbal, 30, of Valley Stream, NY;
- Mohammad Hassan, 52, of Coolidge Avenue in Briarwood;
- Adel (aka Adi) Nabil, 51, of New Hyde Park, NY;
- Jamie (aka Jimmy) Rios, 52, of New Hyde Park, NY;
- Javed Malik, 60, of 172nd Street in Jamaica; and
- Gurbachan Singh, 55, of 265th Street in Glen Oaks.
Each defendant in the second indictment faces up to 7 years in prison if convicted.