Last Updated on Friday, 22 January 2016, 8:18 by Denis Chabrol
A Guyanese man is a among members of a New York-based identification-theft ring that stole more than US$700,000 from banks by impersonating real account holders and making fraudulent withdrawals in 10 states, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said Thursday.
Prosecutors said the group flew “soldiers” to different locales, where they entered banks, including Chase, Wells Fargo and Capital One branches, and posed as legitimate customers to make withdrawals.
Eleven people were indicted in the lucrative ID-theft scam, and now face larceny and fraud raps.
Ringleaders Chester Taylor, 30, and Daniel Persaud, 27, orchestrated the trips and netted between US$2,000 and US$100,000 each time, the District Attorney said.
“There are two hallmarks of the modern identity theft case: it intersects with traditional street crime, and it is no longer locally confined,” said District Attorney Vance. “Anyone with malicious intent can cause widespread damage to victims, and in this case, the defendants allegedly orchestrated a cross-country crime spree that resulted in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraud. Spanning both coasts, this scheme highlights the importance of national collaboration when it comes to combatting cybercrime and identity theft, and I thank our partners for their essential assistance with the investigation.”
Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), said: “This is yet another classic Bank Fraud scheme. Criminals who engage in these types of schemes should understand the power of collaboration. In this case, United States Postal Inspectors partnered with investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Today’s arrests are the result of this collaborative effort.”
According to the indictment and documents filed in court, between December 2013 and January 2015, the defendants stole more than $700,000 from customers of JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Capital One, and Key Bank by impersonating account holders, withdrawing victims’ funds, and using the accounts to purchase money orders at U.S. Post Offices. To carry out the alleged scheme, the defendants flew from New York to cities across the U.S., occasionally making multiple trips per month, and committed fraud in more than ten different states, including New York, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington.
Acting as leaders of the group, Taylor and Persaud were responsible for making travel arrangements, chaperoning co-conspirators on trips, and instructing co-defendants, whom they referred to as “soldiers”, on how to conduct fraud inside the banks.
Upon arriving at a destination, Taylor and Persaud drove their co-defendants to a series of bank branches. At each location, the defendants were instructed to impersonate legitimate account holders and initiate fraudulent transactions using forged identification and personal information provided to them by Taylor and Persaud in order to bypass security questions.
JAMES BERRY, MARIE FERRIS, DEREESE GABBIN, KEANNA HERON, FRANCESCA HUCKABY, NICOMEDES ORTIZ, NELSON RIVERA, SHANNON SANDERS, and MICHELLE WILDER are accused of entering banks, posing as account holders, and making fraudulent withdrawals; FERRIS alone impersonated more than 25 different victims and stole more than $200,000.
In total, Taylor and Persaud accompanied the so-called “soldiers” on more than 20 trips around the United States, making between $2,000 and $100,000 in fraudulent withdrawals on each trip. A search warrant executed at TAYLOR’s residence also revealed possession of forged documents, including identification, as well as travel documents and mobile phones used to call bank customer service numbers.
In a separate but related case that is being handled by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, in January 2015, Jordan Johnson—Taylor’s half-brother—was found murdered and left in the trunk of his car. The victim’s apartment had also been burglarized and the perpetrators stole cash, jewelry, and other items, some of which were the proceeds of crimes alleged in the present indictment.