The Martin Act, New York General Business Law 352 and related subsections, is the hammer in a prosecutor’s toolbox to investigate and prosecute securities fraud in New York State. The New York State Legislature passed this “blue sky law” to regulate fraudulent securities transactions and to provide the New York Attorney General (a prosecutor with jurisdiction anywhere in the State of New York), with grounds to bring a civil law suit against perpetrators of financial fraud. In 1932 the act was expanded to allow the Attorney General to bring criminal charges, and request criminal sanctions, against perpetrators of financial fraud.
In a prior bog entry, I addressed some of the potential felony arrest charges you can face if you commit credit card fraud, debit card fraud or check fraud in New York. As a New York criminal lawyer and former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney, I have either prosecuted or defended hundreds of these crimes involving stolen or fake credit cards, bogus checks and other alleged scams netting a few dollars to millions of dollars. While certain crimes associated with check fraud and credit card fraud in New York are not necessarily impacted by the value of the ill gotten gains (Forgery, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument and Falsifying Business Records – see other blog entries and CrottySaland.Com for information on these offenses), the degree of other crimes and offenses share a direct correlation with the associated theft or larceny. Beyond the “D” and “E” felonies listed above, these crimes include Grand Larceny and felony Criminal Possession of Stolen Property.
Grand Larceny: Credit Card, Debit Card & Check Fraud
There are few things more frightful and concerning than being arrested in a nation where you do not reside. Compounding matters, because the United States has a unique criminal justice system, you may not have any idea about the arrest process and what you may face whether you were charged with a crime in New York City (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, etc.), White Plains or some other jurisdiction. Not only will you have to contend with collateral immigration issues of your arrest such as how to renew your visa (if you can), what will you do if you plan on leaving New York and returning home before your case is resolved? For example, if you are issued a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) to return to Manhattan Criminal Court weeks after you go back to your home nation, how will you avoid a Bench Warrant from being issued and an arrest upon your return to the United States? Even if you wanted to stay and fight your case, what will happen if you overstay your visa?
Before addressing the issues mentioned above, please note that this blog entry merely addresses misdemeanor crimes in New York and not felony offenses in the context of an arrest of a foreign national. Not only are felony crimes much more serious, but these crimes have a separate set of procedural rules that may not be applicable to their misdemeanor brethren. Having addressed that, some of the more common misdemeanor arrests that foreign nationals face and those I have defended against as a New York criminal lawyer have been shoplifting (Petit Larceny – New York Penal Law 155.25 and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree – New York Penal Law 165.40), possession of drugs such as cocaine, heroin or other controlled substances (Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Seventh Degree – New York Penal Law 220.03), jumping a turnstile or failing to pay a cab driver (Theft of Services – New York Penal Law 165.15) and possession of a marijuana joint or pipe open to public view (Criminal Possession of Marijuana – New York Penal Law 221.10). Far from an exhaustive list, if you, as a foreign national, provided a local address, the NYPD officer who arrested you may have given you a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) for your return to court on a future date. You will not be processed through “the system” in the same manner as if you committed a felony or a similar misdemeanor without establishing ties to New York City.
According to New York City’s top prosecutor, a Manhattan Chase Bank teller’s passion for the Benjamins may have cost him much more than the $240,000 he is alleged to have swindled from his employer. Unfortunately for Sephoen Tsang, a Chinatown branch worker, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. has escalated the “war” on white collar crimes in recent months with equal passion to Tsang’s alleged thieving ways.
It is claimed by prosecutors that Tsang made numerous fake and false entries into the computer system at Chase Bank regarding the movement of $243,000 in funds. Although prosecutors claim that internal computer systems records from November 29, 2011 appear as if Tsang moved $243,000 from his teller drawer to the bank vault and and then again to the ATM machines, these transactions never transpired. Instead, the money was allegedly stolen outright.
“Go get ‘em, Cy!” That was likely the cheer that echoed through the halls of TD Bank corporate headquarters after the Manhattan District Attorney and his troops announced the indictment and arrest of 94 individuals in an alleged check fraud and Grand Larceny ring that pilfered approximately $450,000 from the global bank. While the loss of $450,000 has absolutely no impact on the bottom line of such a large institution, and is likely viewed merely as one of the many costs of doing business in the 21st century, such a theft is significant in terms of consumer and banker confidence and security. The alleged fraudsters may have believed they were in a real life Staples commercial when they allegedly looted approximately 90 accounts and spent the ill gotten gains on cards and dice at area casinos (Hey, “That was easy.”), but they were certainly wrong. The sad reality for the accused is that many of those arrested now face up to fifteen years in state prison. Reminiscent of the Queens District Attorney’s Office 16 million dollar and 100 plus person indictments charging Enterprise Corruption, Grand Larceny and other crimes, Manhattan prosecutors, like District Attorney Brown’s crew, are poised to to send a strong message to would be identity, cyber and check fraud thieves. In fact, taking a page out of the book of his predecessor, Robert Morgenthau, for fighting crimes in the streets and in the suites, DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. stated:
“Our job is to protect New Yorkers, whether on the streets, online, or in the banking system. The most recent cases brought by my Office’s Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau show how pervasive cyberfraud schemes are, and how they depend on individuals willing to play various criminal roles. Whether you are a ring-leader or a small player, if you are caught committing fraud, you will be prosecuted.”
As I have addressed in the past, theft of a credit card or debit card in New York City, and in any of the surrounding boroughs or counties, will result in (at least) the felony charge of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, NY Penal Law 155.30(4). Certainly anyone facing such a charge should consult with New York criminal defense attorney experienced in credit card crimes as the felony they would face is punishable by up to four years in prison. But what about credit card fraud (whatever that actually means!)? Will a perpetrator of credit card fraud be charged with a felony? Are there other charges that may accompany a credit card fraud charge? What evidence does the State of New York have to bring to prove credit card fraud? Let’s briefly address these questions here. After all, it is important to understand the seriousness of the charges a New Yorker can face if they perpetrate one of these crimes.
In New York, one of the crimes credit card fraud will result in is a charge of New York Penal Law 170.10(1) Forgery in the Second Degree. A “D” felony punishable by up to seven years in state prison, Forgery in the Second Degree is a relatively common crime. You are guilty of Forgery in the Second Degree if you fraudulently sign the name of the actual holder of the credit card or debit card on a written instrument (i.e. the transaction receipt). Similar to theft of a credit or debit card, forgery in the second degree does not turn on the value of goods stolen (i.e. the items you purchased by signing the false name on the receipt). If you forged a signature without authority and with the intent to defraud the credit card company and/or the store (or the cardholder for that matter), then you are guilty of Forgery in the Second Degree. It is fairly scary that this one bogus signature has enormous criminal ramifications.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown keeps motoring on obtaining one Enterprise Corruption indictment after another. Whether the top prosecutor in Queens is chasing down identity thieves, gamblers or other alleged fraudsters, when he finally catches them he brings out the “big guns” found in the New York Penal Law. According to a press release from earlier today, DA Brown has done it again. Eighteen individuals, arrested for and charged with Enterprise Corruption, Grand Larceny, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, Falsifying Business Records, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument and Conspiracy, are all alleged to be part of an auto loan fraud scheme. It appears that obtaining indictments against these individuals was not enough to satisfy DA Brown’s voracious appetite for justice as he also obtained indictments for three separate corporations.
According to prosecutors, eighteen individuals and three corporations have been indicted for their alleged roles in two massive automobile loan fraud schemes that resulted in nearly two million dollars in losses to 18 financial institutions on 47 loans. A fairly basic, yet lucrative, scheme it is alleged that the defendants were involved in obtaining loans to purchase high end automobiles – BMWs, Mercedes, Porsches – with the assistance of “straw borrowers.” These borrowers had good credit that enable them to allegedly purchase vehicles that were later resold or rented on the black market and used in criminal activities.
While they may be best known for serving choice cut steaks, a few of New York’s most famous steakhouses may need to add an arrest profile to their Zagat’s ratings. According to reports, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.’s prosecutors busted a credit card fraud ring allegedly run by men and women whose day jobs were to serve as waiters at some of New York’s flagship restaurants. From Smith and Wollensky, Capital Grille and Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in Manhattan to Morton’s in Stamford and the Bicycle Club in New Jersey, it is alleged that more than two dozen arrested waiters dined on patrons’ credit card numbers as their unsuspecting customers grazed on filet mignon, porterhouse and the occasional rib eye (bone in, of course). Although the allegations have yet to fully materialize, it is alleged that these waiters stole approximately fifty account numbers from the high-end credit cards, including the fabled American Express Black Card, and used these account numbers to go on expensive shopping sprees.
The means by which these accused waiters perpetrated the Enterprise Corruption, Identity Theft (although not technically charged with this crime), Grand Larceny, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument and other crimes is clear. The alleged fraudsters used hand held skimming devices to kick off the alleged scam. Fairly easy to purchase online, these devices can be hidden in one’s palm and can scan a credit card in the time it takes to take one swipe. Once the reader glides over the magnetic strip, the account number is then stored for later use. Armed with the credit card numbers, the alleged defendants then encoded a new credit card with the stolen account number.
According to Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, a scamming former stock broker managed to cheat and lie his way back into the 1% at the expense of fellow one percenters and on the backs of the 99% as well. While the arrest and indictment of Boris Shteyngart will likely not stop the #OWS from disrupting lower Manhattan on Thursday, it may send a strong message to would be thieves in Kings County. It is alleged in a multi-count indictment that Shteyngart defrauded a dentist from the “Show Me State” out of $142,000 and an 84 year old retiree out of $10,00 which consisted of a significant portion of the latter’s life savings. All of this, according to Brooklyn prosecutors, was stolen and used to support Shteyngart’s lifestyle.
DA Hynes claims that Shteyngart perpetrated his criminal scheme by “cold calling” potential investors. At some point after his alleged victims began to trust him, Shteyngart would convince these “investors” to send him money by wire transfer or check payable to “Bori.” Once he received these checks, prosecutors allege that Shteyngart merely added an “s” next to “Bori.” Not rocket science, “Bori” became “Boris” and Shteyngart was able to deposit the checks in his own account. In total, prosecutors believe the scheme netted the defendant approximately $200,000.
As prolific as the drug trade was in Manhattan and all of New York City from the 1970s through the 1990s, Identity Theft has easily surpassed it. In fact, Identity Theft and related crimes have crept into almost every business – private and public – well beyond the offices and apartments of Gotham. Arguably, Identity Theft, in terms of the volume of crimes perpetrated and the associated damages, makes almost every other offense in the New York Penal Law seem pedestrian. Case in point, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance just unsealed an 81 count indictment against Nikolai Ivanov, Dimitar Stamatov and Iordan Ivanov for allegedly committing a fairly common and easy to execute scheme. Although this indictment is “insignificant” when compared to the Queens District Attorney’s Office’s indictment of over 100 people in a multi-million dollar Identity Theft scheme, It is alleged that N. Ivanov, Stamatov and I. Ivanov scammed as many as 1500 people by placing skimming devices and disguised cameras on ATMs early this year. These ATM machines, located in Astor Place, Union Square and the East Village, were treasure troves of personal information that prosecutors claim were used to help the defendants steal nearly $300,000.
The alleged debit card skimming scheme, one that is routinely perpetrated throughout New York and other cities and states, was fairly easy to pull off. It is claimed that the defendants placed devices on the “mouth” or access point where a customer would slide his or her debit card into an ATM machine. As the customer conducted his or her regular business, a hidden video camera pointed at the keypad recorded the PIN number or code used to access the bank accounts. With this information, the defendant’s then allegedly accessed the bank accounts at different locations in New York, Canada and other states. It is alleged by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office that the defendants placed eleven different skimming devices at four separate Manhattan ATM locations. Ultimately, however, it is alleged that one of the Ivanov brothers, along with Stamatov, was arrested in May when he attempted to retrieve one of the skimming devices in Manhattan.