A Jamaica man pleaded guilty on Friday to leading an enterprise that stole personal and financial data from numerous Queens residents.
Prosecutors said that Muhammad Rana, 41, of Jamaica led the operation that swindled $3.5 million from consumers, financial institutions and retail businesses between April 2015 and January 2017. He pleaded guilty on Jan. 19 to an enterprise corruption charge under the state’s Organized Crime Control Act.
“Today’s case brings to a close the successful dismantling of a criminal organization that included document forging mills and shopping sprees for big ticket merchandise with forged credit cards that left bills at the mailboxes of innocent customers,” Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in a statement. “The defendant at the top of this operation has now pleaded guilty and will be incarcerated for a lengthy period of time.”
Rana was the 17th individual in the fraud ring to plead guilty to one of two indictments handed down last March against participants in the criminal conspiracy. The bust was the result of a major joint investigation by the NYPD Identity Theft Squad and the Queens District Attorney’s Economic Crimes Bureau that began in April of 2015.
Law enforcement agents 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.
The indicted suspects included several businesses owners who acquired the personal information from customers and passed it along to members of the fraud ring. Participants then used that information to produce fraudulent credit or debit cards, or posed as the victims to obtain lines of credit.
Other members then used the cards or lines of credit for shopping sprees at major retailers to buy designer-label clothing, electronics, jewelry and more.
Of Rana’s 16 co-defendants, 10 of them received jail time or prison sentences and were ordered to pay more than $500,000 in restitution, Brown said.
Rana must return to Queens Criminal Court on Feb. 1 for sentencing; he faces up to 15 years behind bars.