NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Donors to one of New York’s top charities are among the victims of a massive identity theft ring.
They gave – and then they got taken.
In this season of giving, it was a crime that was all about taking from those who opened their wallets to help charity, reports CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.
“The idea that people were donating their hard earned money to a charity and then becoming victims of crime made that especially appalling to us,” said Deputy Ins. Greg Antonsen of the NYPD’s Financial Crimes Task Force.
LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell On The Case
Cops and prosecutors said it was a sophisticated operation that took $2 million over 18 months from the United Jewish Appeal-Federation. Of the 55 people arrested, 34-year old Tracey Nelson is called a key figure, investigators said.
She worked in the back office at the UJA-Federation on 59th Street handling donations, and, the district attorney said, helping herself. She allegedly used a smart phone to snap pictures of thousands of checks and credit card slips and sold the information to identity thieves “ … who created counterfeit checks or used phone or online money transfers to withdraw money from the victims’ bank accounts,” Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. said.
Vance said other “insiders” who stole financial data worked at Open Road Audi and property management firm Akam Associates.
Investigators said three of the ring members were bank tellers at Chase, and others worked at the U.S. Postal Service and UPS.
Among the victims is the man who owns a Hamptons mega-estate, billionaire Ira Rennert.
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Ultimately, the victims were reimbursed by their bank, but said they suffered in other ways.
“As is always the case in identity theft, deprived the individual identity theft victims of their good credit, their time, ‘course their peace of mind,” Vance said.
Vance said it’s vital to check your credit card and bank statements, and to report fraudulent activity immediately.
Police said some of those arrested belong to street gangs and that during the investigation two of the suspects were murdered.
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