ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says seven people have been arrested in an identity theft scheme that netted more than $1 million in products and gift cards by tapping consumer charge accounts in four states.
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Schneiderman has accused the suspects of using the stolen information — including names and Social Security numbers — to make fake driver’s licenses in a Greenwich Village smoke shop in Manhattan to impersonate consumers with credit at major retail stores.
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The defendants are accused of hijacking over 180 customer’s accounts at Home Depot, Sears, Kmart and Kohl’s to get merchandise and gift cards which they later sold for a profit.
“These individuals systematically victimized over 180 New Yorkers in an elaborate scheme to line their own pockets,” said Schneiderman.
The defendants include Phillip Smith, 54, the ring’s leader; Melissa Morton, 24, who allegedly impersonated female identity theft victims at major stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut; Mahmoud Abdul Hussein, 27, Ali Abdul Hussein, 33, and Fadal Abdul Hussein, 22, – three brothers who allegedly manufactured fake driver’s licenses; and Francis Hidalgo, 44, and Randy White, 56, who are alleged to have resold the illegally obtained store credits or used them to buy material for their businesses.
During the investigation, authorities intercepted phone calls between the defendants.
Schneiderman said during one conversation, Smith warned White that the fraudulently obtained Sears store credits had to be used “right away” otherwise “they [would] go bad.”
Charges include conspiracy to commit access device fraud, conspiracy to produce fake driver’s licenses and aggravated identity theft.
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