Articles Tagged with Identity Theft

Many people are arrested by police when suspicions are raised in cases when they’re pulled over for simple traffic stops. This also frequently happens when law enforcement is given access to people’s homes for indeterminate reasons, such as a 911 call for a domestic argument that wasn’t actually serious and may have even been resolved before police arrived.

For example, if a police officer notices a pouch of what appears to be marijuana with a box of rolling paper in plain view, they can possibly make an arrest, even though they were called to the scene for a totally different purpose.

But in many cases, when police notice items that cause them to assume that a more substantial crime may be involved due to what they feel to be evidence witnessed with their own eyes, they may choose to further investigate and hold parties they believe to be involved as they begin and continue the inspective process.

Michael Cohen is a Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney whose practice concentrates on the defense of federal charges. In cases such as these, his help can be invaluable for resulting in the best outcome if charges are filed by the federal government or the State of Florida.

When an arrest takes place by law enforcement when they assume the evidence they stumbled upon by chance may be a fragment of a greater possible crime, in many cases they may be correct.

Such was the case when Miramar Police were investigating an armed home invasion that took place in 2013 at a residence inhabited by three men: Harlan and Frantz Decoste, and Francis Jeudy.

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Recently on my Website, I’ve been focusing on the topic of identity theft since tax season is fast approaching and the rise in these types of cases increases dramatically this time of year.

Most people submit their tax information to the IRS before the April 15 deadline hoping to receive their refund checks as early as possible.

But in many cases, others are already spending that expected money as people continually check their mailboxes for the check they assume to receive from the Department of the Treasury.

Tax Season has begun, and potential identity thieves are making plans.

After the New Year’s festivities end, up until the April 15 deadline (excluding extensions) people go through their records from the previous year and prepare to submit their completed income tax information to the IRS by themselves or through a representative, in the hopes of receiving a nice refund from the taxes they overpaid during the year; using the deductions they are legally entitled to.

But well before that date, plans are hatched by identity thieves imagining how to play the system by stealing people’s identities, and cashing the refunds that are due to others.

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Former Corrections Officer Jerry St. Fleur, 26, was sentenced to over four years in a federal prison after agreeing to a plea deal for charges of identity theft and wire fraud. Over sixty thousand dollars that was proceeds from his scheme will also be forfeited. He faced up to twenty years in federal prison before submitting to the guilty plea.

But in 2014, St. Fleur was not alone when it came to officers from Florida’s Department of Corrections being arrested, accepting guilty pleas and being sentenced for their crimes.

St. Fleur was the third employee of Florida Correctional Institutions to be sent to federal prison for their transgressions. Just one month earlier, former juvenile probation officer Corey A. Coley was sentenced to more than seven years for identity theft and filing false tax returns and just two months prior to that resolution, former federal corrections Officer Michael J. Garland was sentenced to two years after he pleaded guilty for charges of bribery and smuggling contraband into a federal prison.

In this latest case St. Fleur’s guilty plea was established based on charges that he stole the identities of existing and former inmates who either served or were serving time at the Zephyrhills Correctional Facility. He used the data to file more than one hundred eighty bogus tax returns requesting refunds in an amount that exceeded one half million dollars

St. Fleur was arrested this past May on five separate counts of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft by using his authority to acquire birth dates and Social Security numbers that he matched up to the names of inmates currently serving their sentences at the facility. He was also charged with using the FDOC database to acquire the same information for inmates who previously were incarcerated there. He would use the former and present inmate’s personal identifying information (PII) to file the phony returns

After filing the fraudulent tax returns he directed payment to be deposited to debit cards that was held by accomplices who took part in his scheme.

The charges against St. Fleur of identity theft and wire fraud are both federal crimes which were investigated by the FBI and IRS. Locally, the investigation was assisted by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office leading to St. Fleur’s arrest and subsequent guilty plea and sentence. It was prosecuted by Matthew Jackson, Assistant United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida.

The Coley case resulted with him receiving a sentence of more than seven years in federal prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, as well as conspiracy. He was also ordered to return $671,023. That amount was the minimum monetary quantity calculated to be what he and his three accomplices obtained through the scheme. His co-conspirators also received significant punishments.

Albert E. Moore, Jr. was sentenced to more than six years, Tigi Moore received a four year sentence and Mattie Philon received the shortest sentence of two years in federal prison.

The case against Garland concluded with a two year prison sentence and the forfeiture of $4,200 which was the amount traced as being the financial proceeds of his crimes.

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In one of the biggest schemes ever encountered by the United States Government relating to credit card fraud, with definitive losses to financial institutions and independent businesses of more than $200 million in phony charges, two men have pleaded guilty before two separate U.S. Magistrate Judges within a period of six days

Statements made in court, and documents filed in this case establish that Shafique Ahmed, 52, of Floral Park, New York and Qaiser Khan, 49, of Valley Stream, New York were members of a group who put together more than 7,000 fabricated identities for the purpose of obtaining tens of thousands of credit cards. The two men were originally charged in a February roundup of eighteen individuals by special agents of the FBI’s Cyber Division. The original arrests were announced by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the Department of Justice. At the time, hundreds of FBI agents along with U.S. Postal Inspection Service officers arrested the eighteen suspects in separate locations spanning across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The actual illegal operation is thought to expand through dozens of states as well as having International connections.

Mr. Ahmed pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor in Newark federal court on September 11, to an allegation which charged him with conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Less than a week later, Mr. Khan, one of his codefendants in the case, pleaded guilty to the same charge before a separate judge, U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo.

Previously, during a four-week period between July 24 and August 7, four others of the accused parties pleaded guilty to separate informations relating to the case. On July 24 Mohammad Khan, 49, of Staten Island pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States. On July 31 both Raghbir Singh, 57, of Hicksville, New York and Vernina Adams, 31, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and finally on August 7, Muhammad Shafiq, 39, of Bellrose, New York, pleaded guilty to the same charge. All pleas were heard by Judge Arleo.

The remaining perpetrators that have yet to stand before a judge who live in the Metropolitan area are: Vinod Dadlani, 49 from Lyndhurst, New Jersey, Ijaz Butt, 53 from Hicksville, New York, Habib Chaudhary, 45 and Shahid, 44 both from Valley Stream, New York, Muhammad Naveed, 35 from Flushing, New York, Khawaja Ikram, 40 from Staten Island, New York, Nasreen Akhtar, 37 from Jersey City, New Jersey, Azhar Ikram, 39 from Howard Beach, New York, in addition to Babar Quereshi, 59, Sat Verma, 60, Vijay Verma, 45, and Tarsem Lal, 74, all from Iselin, New Jersey.

The scam entailed a process of three steps. First the defendants created false identities by constructing documents of identification that were phony along with a fabricated credit profile provided to the major credit bureaus. Then, they would inflate the credit of the phony identities by giving those credit bureaus fictitious information creating the appearance of being credit worthy. Lastly, large loan amounts were amassed.

Once this was all set up the members of the scheme retained what are known as “drop addresses”. Across the country in excess of 1,800 of these entities were set up including actual apartments, single family homes, and post office boxes. The suspects then used these as mailing addresses for the persons who these false identities were set up for.

The defendants then fashioned bogus businesses that actually performed no services and obtained very little or no revenue at all. They then acquired credit card terminals for these enterprises. Once in place, they collectively started running up charges on the fraudulent cards. In order to accept payments in the usage of credit cards, businesses have to institute a merchant account with a body recognized as a merchant processor. The processor affords the companies with equipment for the processing of the cards, accepts the payments directly from the credit card companies on behalf of credit card transactions completed by the businesses. The funds are then deposited into the bank account of the individual companies, minus a pre-agreed upon fee. When the case arose where the processors closed some of the accounts operated by the collaborators for possible fraudulent activity, they would simply apply for new terminals and fashion new businesses, starting the entire process again.

The mock companies would also function as “furnishers,” who provided the credit bureaus with fabricated facts and figures regarding the credit history of the many bogus identities of the deceitful individuals who supposedly worked at the fake companies or claimed to be the owners.

The crime of credit card fraud is frequently correlated as a supplement to identity theft. According to the United States Federal Trade Commission, although identity theft had been holding steady prior to 2008, reports display a massive percentage increase in the crime over the past 5 years. Yet, in comparison, credit card fraud by itself has decreased as a percentage of all identity theft complaints. This latest investigation just may move the falling percentages a bit closer.

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