Sep 172014

The Star-Advertiser reports:

A former University of Hawaii Foundation employee is not going to prison for using scholarship money to pay off a gambling debt.

A federal judge sentenced Dodge Watson, 34, to three years’ probation Monday for forging the signatures of other foundation employees to get approval for a $2,000 scholarship check made payable to his bookie.

Read more on Star-Advertiser.

Sep 172014

Ted Shockley reports:

The former owner of four H&R Block tax preparation franchises on the Eastern Shore of Virginia pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to taking personal information from a customer to obtain a line of credit for herself.

Sherry R. Kelley, 41, of Exmore, had been indicted on 20 counts of felony aggravated identity theft. She pleaded guilty to a single count and the other indictments were dropped.

Read more on DelmarvaNow

Sep 162014

Jacksonville, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announced the return of an indictment charging two individuals with conspiracy to defraud the United States, multiple counts of aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, and access device fraud. Laura Butler (39) and Cherica Daniels (32), both of Jacksonville, were arrested early Thursday morning.

According to the Indictment, Butler and Daniels agreed and conspired with each other to intentionally and deliberately disrupt the collection of federal income tax by, among other means, filing fraudulent income tax returns. Butler is alleged to have acquired the identification of others through her employment by an insurance company and, along with Daniels, to have filed false and fraudulent income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service.

If convicted, the conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment. The aggravated identity theft offenses each carry a mandatory prison term of two years, which must be served consecutive to any other term of imprisonment. The maximum penalty for each wire fraud count is 20 years, and the access device fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal laws, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.

The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Kelly S. Karase is handling the prosecution of this case.

SOURCE: U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida

Sep 162014

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

Sep 162014

Tresa Baldas reports:

Free Wi-Fi at Starbuck’s helped produce $1.8 million in bogus tax refunds for some Detroit customers.

That’s the latest identity theft tale unfolding in federal court, where two Detroit women pleaded guilty today to running a tax scheme.

According to federal officials, the plan involved stealing the identities of dead people to prepare phony tax returns that involved more than $1 million in bogus refunds.

And they went to great lengths not to get caught, submitting the tax returns electronically using free Wifi at places like Starbucks and Red Roof Inns, where prepaid aircards were used, the government said.

Read more on Detroit Free Press.

Sep 132014

This may be related to another prosecution previously noted on this blog, even though this defendant was not listed as one of the co-conspirators in that case:

Ciara Gooden, age 24, of Jackson, was sentenced this week to 30 months for conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Gooden previously pled guilty to her role in a conspiracy to file fraudulent federal income taxes using the social security numbers and dates of birth which had been stolen from the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The information was then used by others to file false tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. The tax returns claimed that the tax payers were owed a refund. Those refunds were then electronically deposited into various bank accounts in Mississippi belonging to Gooden and her co-conspirators. Following her prison sentence, Gooden will be on supervised release for 3 years during which she must pay restitution to the United States Government in the amount of $27,579.65.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation with assistance from the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the Mississippi Department of Revenue. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Lemon.

SOURCE U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Mississippi