Eight people involved in an elaborate “phishing” scam have been indicted and charged with grand larceny for cashing in on stolen and forged checks and money orders, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
The crime ring based in southeast Queens was smashed following an 18-month joint investigation by the DA’s office, the NYPD and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Davonte Sconiers, 25, and Allejo Walters, 24, both of Jamaica, and six other individuals have been charged in seven different indictments by a grand jury and were arraigned Tuesday, July 20, before Queens Supreme Court Stephanie Zaro on grand larceny charges and other crimes for allegedly cashing forged and, in some instances, stolen checks from Queens residents. The checks were deposited at multiple financial institutions throughout the borough and in other jurisdictions between 2018 and 2019, according to Katz.
“These cases illustrate how important it is to contact law enforcement when you believe you have been the victim of a phishing scam,” Katz said. “The investigation began after my office and the NYPD received numerous complaints from the public. The defendants in this case allegedly embraced mail phishing and check forgery as money-making enterprises.”
According to the charges, investigators received a number of complaints from residents who had been victimized in mail phishing schemes between late 2018 and early 2019. A joint investigation began which included court-authorized warrants for mobile phone, social media accounts, and residential searches.
The cell phones allegedly contained numerous images of checks, bank deposit receipts and text messages between various defendants discussing bank account limits, PIN numbers and security questions.
“One of the defendants allegedly acquired real checks that had been mailed, then changed the payees and money figures and obtained the checking account number of real victims to cash forged checks,” Katz explained. “These fraudulent deposits totaled tens of thousands of dollars. Caught and in custody, all eight defendants face serious charges.”
Katz added that Sconiers allegedly made deposits of fraudulent checks totaling well over $20,000. Following a court-authorized search of Sconiers’ home, law enforcement allegedly recovered a bank debit card that was linked to a bank that had received numerous deposits of stolen and forged United States Postal Service money orders.
In addition to Sconiers and Walters, the other defendants include: Michael Fayemiwo, 23, of Far Rockaway; Terae Wambach, 29, of Jamaica; Orange Davis,23, of Jamaica; Christopher Turnage, 25, of Jamaica; Shareef King-Phillips, 44, of Jamaica; and Nikia Thomas, 26, of Brooklyn.
“These defendants colluded to steal from the U.S. Mail, then used the stolen information to rob customers of their financial DNA,” U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Phillip R. Barnett said. “Identifying and arresting these individuals is the mission of the Postal Inspection Service, maintaining the safety of an American tradition and its customers.”