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Articles Posted in In the News

Stealing more than mere shekels, multiple alleged Identity Theft and check fraud rings pilfered $2 million from high worth individuals including the accounts of UJA-Federation donors. Although Hank Greenberg may not have noticed a few thousand dollars here or there, the alleged fraudsters are getting more than an “Oy Vey” from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. for their alleged identity thieving. In fact, some of the nearly sixty defendants arrested or accused of various crimes are facing charges including Grand Larceny in the First Degree, a “B” felony punishable by a mandatory minimum of one to three years in prison. The maximum for this crime is eight and one third to twenty five years, but these numbers are all skewed should any of these men or women have prior felony records from the past ten years. While alleged gang association does not necessarily mean a criminal past, prosecutors further claim the many of those arrested in New York were members of the Bloods and Crips.

According to the New York County press release as well as numerous media outlets, the scheme (like many involving Identity Theft) was fairly east to perpetrate. For Example, Tracy Nelson, an employee of the UJA Federation, processed donor checks. This access to sensitive and financial information gave her the opportunity to allegedly take pictures and copy account information of donor checks. It is further claimed by DANY prosecutors that Nelson then sold the copies to other thieves who would open fraudulent checking accounts or credit cards with this information.

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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.

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“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.”

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In a fairly atypical prosecution by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Cyrus Vance, Jr. and Company are spearheading a case in Manhattan Criminal Court against alleged “lone wolf” terrorist, Jose Pimentel. It is alleged that Pimentel was a step or two away from detonating a shrapnel filled pipe bomb somewhere in New York City in retaliation against the military’s success against certain Muslim extremists. Pimentel faces up to twenty-five years in state prison if convicted not of the terrorism related offense that has galvanized the media, but for possessing an explosive type weapon.

According to reports, The New York City Police Department had been watching Pimentel for sometime after they learned of his alleged terroristic desires. In fact, it appears that Pimentel was the subject of NYPD scrutiny for well north of a year or two. While the story behind the investigation and ultimate arrest of Pimentel is fascinating, this blog entry will not address that investigation. Instead, the focus of this article is dissecting the offenses for which a Grand Jury may indict the accused.

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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.

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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.

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In the end, the Dominique Strauss Kahn case ended where it all began…the gutter. Detectives with the New York City Police Department arrested the former IMF leader and paraded him before the media. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. obtained an indictment only to dismiss it months later. The press published their “gotch-ya'” photographs while tarring and feathering the accused Frenchman. A sixty-two year old French presidential candidate was exposed as an apparent womanizer possessing an overactive libido and a lifestyle that skirted criminality. A sympathetic immigrant woman who cried rape, but was caught in a web of half-truths and inconsistencies, may be more of a perjurer and victimizer than an actual victim. And lastly, an attorney, who stood to personify the protector of the voiceless victims of sex crime while simultaneously pocketing millions in a civil suit, looked at best ill prepared to manage the intensity of what may be the most sensational criminal case of the decade. At worst, this same attorney may have been a co-conspirator in his clients now debunked claims.

It is likely that one could ask fifty criminal lawyers their respective opinions about whether or not prosecutors rushed into the Grand Jury. It is equally likely that you would, or at least could, get fifty differing and reasonable responses. When asked by various news reporting agencies, I have always maintained that the case should not have been presented to the Grand Jury. Instead, prosecutors should have sought a bail package to avoid having their legal hand forced (it is interesting to note in the extensive Dismissal on Recommendation (DOR) filed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, a detailed analysis of the complainant’s failings is given, but no reference whatsoever to the bail discussions). A bail package, similar to the one agreed to post-indictment, would have absolutely circumvented this P.T. Barnum affair that will forever scar a man with a wrongful indictment. Moreover, at no point in the DOR, or to my knowledge in any statement, did prosecutors assert that they believed the witness or the evidence in the case beyond a reasonable doubt prior to stepping into the Grand Jury. Clearly this is now the case, but the omission from the time of the indictment is concerning. Prosecutors should not be presenting evidence before that body in any case unless they subjectively and objectively believe the evidence will reach this level of certainty.

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After a string of high profile defeats, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is going back to the well with the hope that a tested formula will deliver a conviction to public eyes. Like its predecessors, Testwell Laboratories and V. Reddy Kancharla, American Standard Testing and Consulting Laboratories Inc. (ATSC), along with its president Alan Fortich, was indicted by a New York Grand Jury and charged with Enterprise Corruption, Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, and Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree. Additionally, professional engineers Michael Rabkin, Shamim Akond, Richard Kasparian and Bruce Pumo were also charged in the extensive indictment. A “B” felony, Enterprise Corruption is punishable by up to 25 years in state prison for a first time offender while each of the other crimes are “E” felonies punishable by up to four years in prison.

Replicating the factual allegations and ultimate conviction against the Testwell group, Manhattan prosecutors claim that ATSC fudged, altered and manipulated lab results concerning concrete used in numerous public and private jobs. In fact, the indictment alleges that the defendants “regularly skipped vital safety tests and created false reports to create the impression that the tests were performed.” Of great concern for prosecutors is that the buildings where the concrete was poured include such iconic and critical New York venues and structures such as Yankee Stadium, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Javits Center, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and even sections of the Second Avenue Subway. Additionally, ATSC, Fortich and others are alleged to have filed false documents not only associated with testing procedures, but also with government agencies as to eligibility for certain programs. According to DA Vance, Fortich defrauded the “MTA through the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (“DBE”) program…designed to help businesses owned by women or a member of a designated minority group” by falsifying the paperwork that was the foundation of eligibility.

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Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has a long way to go to fill his predecessor Andrew Cuomo’s shoes, but he announced an indictment today that will certainly keep a crew of criminal defense attorneys busy over the next few months. The indictment, the culmination of a significant investigation where undercover investigators posed as potential nursing students, accuses eleven defendants of operating a fraudulent nursing school and college scheme. The defendants are charged with Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (NY PL 155.35) as well as Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (NY PL 190.65). A “D” felony, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree is punishable by up to seven years in state prison while Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree is an “E” felony punishable by up to four years in state prison.

It is alleged that the defendants, Robinson Akenami (owner and operator of Helping Angels Foundation of America (HAFA)), Jocelyn Allrich (owner and operator of Hope-VTEC Hope-VTEC a/k/a J. Allrich Productions, Inc., Hope Nursing Tutorial Services, and Tutorial Nursing Prep), Nadege Auguste (owner and operator of VTEC-NY, Inc. a/k/a Life-VTEC), Andre Castage (an Administrator and Admissions Director at International Language and Professional Network, Inc. (ILPN)), Carline D’Haiti (operator of Envision Review Center), Salavatrice Gaston (a second operator of Envision Review Center), Anthony Myers (an administrator and ILPN’s Admissions Director), Rodye Paquiot (an executive at ILPN), Carl Lee Sellers (the Administrator of Hope-VTEC), Frantz Simeon (owner and Executive Director of ILPN) and Jude Valles (established the VTEC franchise) each perpetrated various frauds on unsuspecting students. It is claimed that these men and women lied to students about critical educational issues such as the schools accreditations and that students would be eligible to sit for the New York State Nursing Board Exam (NCLEX).

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Although not arrested by Detective Frank Drebin, for seventeen individuals indicted in Brooklyn because of their alleged involvement in High Class NY, a New York City escort ring, this certainly is “some kind of a bust.” Unfortunately for them, however, there is nothing funny about the predicament they face. According to Charles Hynes, Kings County’s top prosecutor, “[th]ere is no such thing as a high-class pimp, and as we do with all other pimps, my office will prosecute these defendants and seek the maximum sentences available under the law.” Charged in the 144 count indictment, seventeen individuals, including Mikhail Yampolsky; his wife, Bronislava Yampolsky; his son, Alexander Yampolsky; his step-son, Jonathan Yampolskaya and alleged investors Efim Gorelik and Yakov Maystrovich, face some of the highest degree felonies in the New York Penal Code. In addition to these defendants, detectives also arrested Valerii Loboda, Irina Pobukovsky, Ilya Olshansky, Angelo Pascacello, Meredith Harford, Boris Ratovsky, Yury Gorelik, Pinia Ashkinadze, Alexey Senenov and Oleg Lechko. These men and women, as well as five corporations, face a multitude of crimes such as Enterprise Corruption, Promoting Prostitution, Money Laundering, and Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance.

If it is not overwhelming clear through DA Hynes’ statement, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office firmly believes that this alleged crew of pimps and prostitutes, who also dabbled in narcotics and drug trafficking, is being treated not merely as individuals, but as an organized criminal institution. Enterprise Corruption, a “B” felony punishable by a mandatory minimum of one to three years in prison and a maximum of eight and one third to twenty five years in state prison for a first time offender, is New York’s version of the federal RICO statute. In charging this crime and arresting these individuals, prosecutors believe and must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that High Class NY operated with a structure that was both ascertainable in nature, ie, different levels of workers, with a common goal or purpose.

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