NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Prosecutors have put the lid on an identity theft ring that allegedly stole credit card information from a popular soup chain.
As CBS 2’s John Slattery reported, 11 defendants were indicted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and arraigned in State Supreme Court later Wednesday.
The defendants are charged in connection with skimming credit and debit cards then engaging in identity theft and fraud as well as grand larceny and forgery.
Prosecutors say Iesha Jackson of the Bronx, an employee of Hale and Hearty Soups at Madison Avenue and 34th Street, who used a skimming device to steal credit and debit card information.
According to the complaint, she had been given a skimming device by her boyfriend, 39-year-old Gerald Spears of the Bronx.
He, along with Samuel Santana of the Bronx, were the two alleged ringleaders who ran a crew of nine others in not only identity theft but in making more than $90,000 worth of fraudulent purchases of jewelry, clothing and electronics, as well as cash advances at the Empire City Casino in Yonkers, Slattery reported.
It’s further charged the ring fraudulently ordered credit reports to obtain more information on their credit card victims. Santana alone faces 56 charges.
“He mentioned the two most important words in a criminal case, not guilty. And now it’s up to the district attorney to prove their case,” Santana’s defense attorney Glenn Hardy told Slattery.
According to the complaint, the suspects stole personal information from at least 60 victims before the alleged scheme was uncovered.
Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance said this case highlights the need to increase penalties for cybercrimes.
“Cybercrime and identity theft is a persistent, growing threat, but our state’s laws in this area are outdated. I am urging the legislature to make easy fixes that would give prosecutors stronger, more effective tools to combat cybercriminals. For example, under current laws, which were largely written more than a decade ago, a defendant who uses the identity of one victim to steal $2,000 is facing the same top charge as a defendant who assumes the identity of 250 victims to steal $500,000. This does not reflect the enormous impact that identity theft is having on innocent individuals and businesses. The law should be amended to allow for aggregation of theft amounts across victims, and therefore, stricter sentences.”
About 300 cases of identity theft are reported to the Manhattan DA’s office each month.
The DA’s office has outlined some tips to avoid identity theft:
- Order a credit report at least once a year. Doing so can help individuals determine whether a credit report has been requested by an unknown party or if any accounts have been opened in their names without permission.
- Review credit cards annually and cancel any unused credit cards.
- Do not store financial information on a computer, and never send sensitive information over the Internet unless the site is secure and the recipient is a fully-trusted person or organization.
- Do not respond to unsolicited emails from strangers, and be wary of downloading suspicious files or hyperlinks to unfamiliar websites.
- Shred any documents containing personal information and protect your mail.
Those who believe they may have been the victim of identity theft are encouraged to call the Manhattan DA’s Cybercrime and Identity Theft Hotline at 212-335-9600.
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