Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest and indictment of five individuals for running an alleged identity-theft ring targeting customers of local banks. The defendants stole over $850,000 by having bank tellers access and steal personal information of hundreds of unsuspecting customers – account numbers and Social Security numbers, for example – and use it to withdraw money from those accounts, according to today’s allegations. The tellers indicted today worked for branches of Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, HSBC, TD Bank and Wachovia in the Bronx, and Westchester and Orange Counties among others.
“Bank tellers have access to our most sensitive financial information and we must be able to trust that our data will remain safe and secure,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Identity theft is a complex and growing problem, and we must redouble our efforts to ensure that all of us – from large corporations, to small businesses and families – are better protected.”
The defendants allegedly used the stolen information to create fake drivers licenses and checks, which they used to withdraw money at bank branches. The investigation, which was conducted by the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau, revealed that the ring has been in operation for at least four years.
The alleged ring leader was Tyrone Lee, 28, of the Bronx. Three of his co-conspirators – Nadia Figueroa, 23 and Kalika Arline, 29, of the Bronx and Venise Cole, 27, of Florida – were employed as bank tellers at Wachovia and JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and TD Bank, respectively. Anthony Davis, 29, of the Bronx was in charge of manufacturing the fraudulent documents used by the ring to steal from the victims.
According to the indictment unsealed today in Westchester County Court, the three tellers routinely accessed the bank accounts of hundreds of customers to obtain personal and financial data. They then relayed that information to Lee and Davis, who used the information to create fake documents using the stolen customers’ information with, in some cases, the defendants’ own pictures. Those fake IDs were then used to withdraw money at bank branches in New York City, and Westchester and Orange counties, as well as Long Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
During the investigation, investigators used court-authorized wiretaps to intercept telephone calls and text messages. The defendants were overheard speaking in code about customer accounts, which they called “joints,” the “bands” of money they would steal (referring to $1000 stacks of cash) and the banks they intended to target, including “touchdown” for TD Bank and “Yase” for JP Morgan Chase.
Among the New York bank branches whose customers were victims of identity theft are:
JP Morgan Chase: 5 West Burnside Avenue, Bronx, NY
HSBC: 1 East Fordham Road, Bronx, NY
Bank of America: 50 West Fordham Road, Bronx, NY
Bank of America: 206 Main Street, White Plains, NY
JP Morgan Chase: 235 Main Street, White Plains, NY
JP Morgan Chase: 410 South Broadway, Yonkers, NY
Bank of America: 479 North Broadway, Jericho, NY
Wachovia (now Wells Fargo): 43 North Plank Road, Newburgh, NY
The bank tellers arrested and arraigned today worked at the following branches:
Kalika Arline worked at the Bank of America branch at 206 Main Street in White Plains.
Nadia Figueroa worked at the JP Morgan Chase branch, at 235 Main Street, White Plains.
Nadia Figueroa also worked at the Wachovia branch (now a Wells Fargo bank branch), at 43 N. Plank Road, in Newburgh.
Venise Cole worked at the TD branch, at 6176 N U.S. Highway 41, in Apollo Beach, Florida.
Today’s indictment charges all five defendants with multiple felony counts of Grand Larceny, Identity Theft and Scheme to Defraud. Several are also charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument. As part of this investigation, search warrants were executed earlier this year at the residences of Lee and Davis. As a result, Lee was arrested and indicted in June for possession of a 9-mm. handgun recovered at his home. Davis was charged with prior counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument and Falsifying Business Records. If convicted, Lee and Arline each face up to 15 years in prison. Davis, Figueroa, and Cole each face up to 7 years behind bars.
The Attorney General plans to bring additional charges against these defendants and other members of the fraud ring.
The charges are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Lana Milojevic and Rhonda Greenstein and Deputy Bureau Chief Meryl Lutsky of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Gary T. Fishman and the Division of Criminal Justice is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.
The investigation was conducted by Legal Support Analyst Theo Davidson, Investigators Steve Pratt, Vincent Gisonti, Sylvia Rivera, Israel Hernandez, Ryan Fannon and Dave Negron and Larry Riccio, Senior Investigator Dennis Maddalone, Supervising Investigator John Sullivan, and Deputy Chief Investigators John McManus and Greg Stasiuk. The Investigations Division is led by Chief Investigator Dominick Zarrella.
SOURCE: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman