2012-08-22 / Features

Queens Residents Charged With ID, Credit Card Fraud

BY LIZ GOFF

Thirteen people, along with eight Queens residents, were indicted last week in connection with an alleged identity theft and counterfeit credit card ring that operated out of several Queens locations.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said authorities learned of the alleged ring during an ongoing investigation dubbed Operation Swiper, that launched in Ozone Park in October 2009. That probe resulted in 111 arrests or indictments in October 2011 of individuals involved in the ring.

Brown said in a prepared statement that the ring allegedly stole bank account numbers and other personal information that was used to pay for shopping sprees in shops as far away as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Florida.

The ring was headed by Isijola Olusegan, 21 and Darcel Kirby, 46, both of Elmont, L.I. Olusegan was recently arrested in Texas on a Queens County warrant, Brown said.

The complaint alleges that the 13 defendants defrauded scores of unsuspecting consumers, retailers and financial institutions between Jun. 24, 2011 and Mar. 23, 2012 by fraudulently obtaining credit card account numbers and applying that information on forged credit cards and identification cards that were used, along with counterfeit money and Traveler’s Checks, by “shoppers” who purchased items at Best Buy, Home Depot, Loehmann’s, Walgreens and Sephora stores.

The ring members were so brazen that they sometimes returned the illegally purchased items for cash refunds, Brown said.

Law enforcement sources said the ring was responsible for the theft of $13 million over a 16-month period, at locations including the Queens Center Mall and others in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Brown described the scam as the “largest and one of the most sophisticated identity theft-credit card fraud cases in history.”

Also arrested were Simone Abraham, 29, of Jamaica, Queens, Jamel Bartholemew, 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 Village; and from Brooklyn, Shanell James, 21, Michael Ferguson, 26, and Barakat Abiola, 23.

The defendants were “variously charged” with crimes including 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. “These crimes cost millions of dollars in losses to consumers, businesses and financial institutions and will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted.”

Brown last week said that 75 defendants connected with Operation Swiper have pleaded guilty to charges included in the indictments. Several key players in the ring have been sentenced to terms of four to 16 years in prison, Brown said.

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