March 9, By Hannah Wulkan
Thirty people were indicted this week for participating in a credit card and identity theft ring based in Queens, announced Queens District Attorney Richard Brown today.
Following a nearly two year investigation, police busted a ring that allegedly stole credit card information from hundreds of consumers and cost businesses and individuals more than $3.5 million over the course of the scheme.
In addition to shutting down the scam, police also shut down four fake identification mills, several along Roosevelt Avenue, which created the forged documents for the operation.
“Many of the defendants charged today are accused of going on shopping sprees, purchasing tens of thousands of dollars worth of high-end electronics and fashion merchandise at a single clip with forged credit cards that contained the account information of unsuspecting consumers. We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement colleagues to stamp out such fraud,” Brown said.
Police began investigating the ring soon after it began in April 2015, and over the course of the investigation used physical surveillance, intelligence gathering, and court-authorized electronic eavesdropping on dozens of devices, picking up conversations that had to be translated from Hindu, Punjabi, Urdu and Spanish.
The indictments charge that Muhammad Rana was the boss of the operation and Inderjett Singh was his second in command.
The operation was allegedly broken down in to various roles. Ranvie Seepersad was allegedly the “profile supplier,” and would obtain profiles to help the operation compromise accounts, such as a victim’s name, date of birth, current and past addresses, social security number, current and past employment information, current and past phone numbers, bank and credit card account numbers, and sometimes credit report and history.
Seepersad also allegedly illegally accessed the financial records of potential buyers at the car dealerships where he worked. Police found hundreds of customer financial profiles from car dealerships while searching Seepersad’s residence earlier this week.
According to the indictments, the criminal operation would provide the profile information to an “account activator,” who would compile the information and prepare to take over the accounts. In some cases, the account activators would actually call banks and impersonate cardholders.
The activators would make inquiries and check the viability of a line of credit or request replacement cards that could then be intercepted and stolen. They were also responsible for paying off the cards so that the fraud was not detected and the credit line would be extended.
The stolen account information would then be sent to “cell porters,” who would transfer an account holder’s phone number to a different cell phone so they could intercept security calls and block the true cardholder from detecting fraud.
In a few cases, cell porters would change the password on an account to block the true owner from accessing it.
The operation used “crew managers” to oversee the interception and theft of credit cards and to oversee “shoppers,” who would use the cards to buy merchandise to later sell.
During the investigation, police uncovered production crews forging identification cards for the shoppers to use.
Rana would direct shoppers what to buy, and they would go on shopping sprees for high-end merchandise that he could resell, such as electronics, high-end jewelry and gift cards. Rana would also sometimes receive specific orders from store owners that were in on the operation.
Earlier this week, the NYPD executed 24 search warrants throughout Queens and Nassau Counties, recovering $400,000 cash, various gold coins and gold bars, binders with information on hundreds of thousands of individuals, five vehicles, three firearms, skimmers, card readers, embossers, material to make forged documents, and some illegally purchased items, such as Apple electronics and high end handbags.
“This case provides yet another warning to the public that they must be diligent in the protection of their personal identifying information. Sometimes the solution can be something so simple as having a locked mailbox, as this investigation revealed that, as part of their alleged scheme, the defendants ordered new credit cards for cardholders and plucked them out of the cardholders’ mailboxes when they were delivered.”
Brown said that 19 of the defendants were “principal” defendants, and were charged in a 389-count indictment, and were accused of being members and associates of a criminal operation that ran from April 2015 to January 2017, defrauding hundreds of consumers and financial institutions.
The nineteen principal defendants and eleven others were also variously charged in a second 273-count identity theft indictment.
All were arraigned this week.