Two Locals Charged In Credit Card Scam
Thirteen individuals, including two from Rockaway, have been indicted in connection with an identity theft and credit card fraud ring that routinely stole bank account and personal identification information using the Internet to fund nationwide shopping sprees.
The defendants were arraigned on Wednesday afternoon in Queens Supreme Court.
According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, the two Rockaway residents are Jamel Bartholomew, 27, of Far Rockaway and Ari Perhan, 22, of Rockaway Beach.
Brown said, “Credit card fraud and identity theft continue to flourish as more and more financial transactions occur over the Internet. These crimes costs millions of dollars in losses to consumers, businesses and financial institutions and will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted.”
He added, that between June 24, 2011 and March 23, 2012, according to the indictment, the defendants allegedly defrauded scores of unsuspecting consumers, retailers and financial institutions.
According to the charges, the defendants fraudulently obtained credit card account numbers through various means, which were then used to manufacture forged credit and identification cards.
Once the counterfeit cards were created, according to the indictments, they were ultimately given to “shoppers” who were sent out on shopping expeditions all over the New York area including Long Island, Upstate and New Jersey, as well as Delaware, Florida and Pennsylvania to shop using counterfeit credit cards, stolen account and personal identification information, counterfeit currency and counterfeit Traveler’s Cheques.
The defendants allegedly resold the purchased items or in some cases – such as when using Traveler’s Cheques – returned the items for cash. Among the retailers allegedly targeted by the defendants are Best Buy, Home Depot, Loehmann’s, Walgreens and Sephora.
The District Attorney identified the defendants as Isijola Olusegan (a/k/a Shea Black), 21, of Elmont, the alleged boss; Darcel Kirby (a/k/a Roxy), 46, of Elmont, the alleged underboss; Barakat Abiola (a/k/a Lami), 23, of Brooklyn; Simone Abraham (a/k/a School Safety), 29, of Jamaica, Queens; Jamel Bartholomew, 27, of Rockaway; Michael Cruz, 31, of Queens Village; Michael Ferguson (a/k/a Mooley), 26, of Brooklyn; Nicole Freeman, 26, of Jamaica, New York; Shanell James (a/k/a Nora, a/k/a Crystal Brown) 21, of Brooklyn; Maiesha Lovejoy, 21, of Jamaica, Queens; Louise Morpeau, 21, of Hollis, Queens; Ari Parhan, 22, of Rockaway Beach; and Sarah Powell, 24, of Queens Village.
They are variously charged with 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 business records; petit larceny; first-degree scheme to defraud and fifth-degree conspiracy.
Brown said that authorities learned of the alleged ring as part of the investigation of a massive $13 million credit card and identity fraud ring with a worldwide reach – dubbed “Operation Swiper” – that was dismantled last October with the arrests and indictments of 111 defendants. Of those defendants, 75 have pleaded guilty to date — including several of the lead defendants such as Travis Lootawan, 23, who pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption and was sentenced to 5 1/3 to 16 years in prison; Sanjay Deowsarran,
38, who pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption and was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison; Ali Khweiss, 26, who pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption and was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison; Amar Singh, 33, who pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption and was sentenced to 5 1/3 to 10 2/3 years in prison; and Jonathan Ortiz, 26, who pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption and was sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison.