13 charged with ID, credit card fraud
Eight Queens residents were among 13 people indicted last week in connection with an alleged identity theft and counterfeit credit card ring operating out of the borough.
In a statement issued on Aug. 8, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said the ring allegedly stole bank account numbers and other personal information to fund shopping sprees as far away as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Florida.
The ring was allegedly headed by Isijola Olusegan, 21, and Darcel Kirby, 46, both of Elmont, LI. Olusegan was arrested in Texas ona Queens County warrant.
Brown’s office identified the other defendants as Simone Abraham, 29, of Jamaica; Jamel Bartholomew, 27, of Rockaway; Michael Cruz, 31, of Queens Village; Nicole Freeman, 26, of Jamaica; Maiesha Lovejoy, 21, of Jamaica; Louise Morpeau, 21, of Hollis; Ari Parhan, 22, of Rockaway Beach; Sarah Powell, 24, of Queens Villlage; and Shanell James, 21, Michael Ferguson, 26, and Barakat Abiola, 23, of Brooklyn.
The complaints allege that the defendants “defrauded scores of unsuspecting consumers, retailers and financial institutions” between June 24, 2011 and March 23, 2012.
Brown’s office said the defendants were “variously charged” with crimes that include first-, second- and third-degree identity theft; third- and fourth-degree grand larceny; first- and second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument; first-degree falsifying of business records; petit larceny; first-degree scheme to defraud; and fifth-degree conspiracy.
“Credit card fraud and identity theft continue to flourish as more and more financial transactions occur over the Internet,” Brown said in a statement released by his office. “These crimes cost millions of dollars in losses to consumers, businesses and financial institutions and will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted.”
The complaints allege that the defendants fraudulently obtained credit card account numbers through various means, and used the information to manufacture forged credit cards and identification cards.
The cards were then given to “shoppers” who allegedly used them, along with counterfeit cash and traveler’s checks at stores that include Best Buy, Home Depot, Loehmann’s, Walgreens and Sephora.
Brown’s office stated that in some cases, often after paying with the forged traveler’s checks, items were returned to the stores for cash refunds.
The investigation was conducted by the NYPD’s Financial Crimes Task Force and Special Investigations Division with assistance from the United States Postal Inspection Service.
Brown’s office said authorities learned of the alleged ring as part of an investigation code-named “Operation Swiper.”
That investigation began in Ozone Park in October 2009 and resulted in 111 arrests or indictments in October 2011. Law enforcement sources said the ring was responsible for the theft of $13 million over a 16-month period, at locatings ranging from the Queens Center mall to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Brown at the time called it the largest and one of the most sophisticated identity theft-credit card fraud cases in history.
His office stated last week that to date 75 defendants connected with the “Operation Swipe” case have pleaded guilty, with some of the major players in the ring drawing sentences ranging from 4 to up to 16 years in prison.
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