“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.”
Frankly, DA Vance is right and he is assertive in his position. Although any indictment is merely an accusation, whether the theft amount is large or small, involves a few individuals or is a criminal enterprise, no organized act of Grand Larceny is insignificant in the eyes of law enforcement.
According to reports and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office press release (check out the piggy bank symbolizing bank accounts…it brings a touch of “fun” to an otherwise serious situation) prosecutors claim that the alleged band of thieves was run by men and recruiters who payed a couple of hundred dollars to individuals who would open up bank accounts. Once open, bad checks, wire transfers or other monies were deposited into the accounts. Although the alleged bad guys knew the money would ultimately not clear and checks would bounce, the defendants accessed and withdrew the money before the banks waited for the checks to clear. With the money in hand, nearly half a million dollars, the ring leaders allegedly lived like high rollers at Foxwoods Casino and other casinos throughout Atlantic City.
If true, the sad reality of a case like this is that but for the diligence and efforts of prosecutors and law enforcement agents, banks, like TD Bank, would probably not connect the fraud together. While missing the forrest from the trees, the banks would certainly catch a customer who failed to make a timely mortgage payment, but not the alleged large scale fraud rooted out by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Although they would certainly never publicly admit it, the cost to a bank for similar fraud (dollar wise this case involves the same amount of money as a lower end jumbo mortgage default) is not worth internal bank enforcement. Although my commentary may seem cynical or a little “tongue and cheek,” with the relatively weakness in the penal law for crimes relating to Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, Identity Theft and in some cases Grand Larceny, the acceptance by banks of fraud as a cost of doing business, and the overwhelming amount of time it takes to “connect the dots” in a large scale fraud ring, it is clear to see why these types of schemes are the crimes of the future.
As I note in many of my entries assessing alleged large scale scams, what each defendant will set forth as his or her defense will likely play out, like a hand of poker or black jack, over the next few weeks and months. Whether the defendants fold or hit 21… we will all soon find out.
Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm representing those accused of all crimes throughout New York City and the region. Jeremy Saland, one of our two founding New York criminal lawyers, served in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for over seven years. During that time, Jeremy served in the Identity Theft Unit Major Case section, the predecessor to the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau.
To learn more about the crimes listed above and below, please follow the highlighted links to New-York-Lawyers.org as well as the NewYorkCriminalLawyerBlog.Com. Additional information is available on Saland Law PC’s new website and blog, NewYorkTheftAndLarcenyLawyers.Com and NewYorkTheftAndLarcenyLawyersBlog.Com respectively.
Crimes Alleged & Offenses Charged
Grand Larceny in the Second, Third & Fourth Degrees: New York Penal Law 155.40, 155.35 & 155.30
“C,” “D,” and “E,” felonies respectively, these crimes are punishable by up to fifteen, seven and four years. If any of the individuals are predicate felons, mandatory state prison is required. These charges may have been aggregated on an individual basis, but not collectively across defendants as each defendant is not charged with the same degree crime.
Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree: New York Penal Law 170.25
A “D” felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. This offense likely relates to the fake checks or debit cards recovered from an individual. Alternatively, it is possible that he or she had a fake identification of some kind. Without more information, it is difficult to determine.
Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree: New York Penal Law 105.10 An “E” felony, this crime is punishable by up to four years in prison. The crime is tied to the defendants alleged “in cahoots” actions and activities to perpetrate the Grand Larceny criminal scheme. For prosecutors, it enables law enforcement to tie the defendants together into this alleged common fraud. It is important to recognize, however, Enterprise Corruption, a “B” felony with mandatory state prison for even a first time offender, was not charged.
Prosecutorial Agency Manhattan District Attorneys Office – New York County, New York
Defendants Arrested & Accused STEVEN ADDISON, TREVOR O. ALLEN, ALEXANDER ANDUJAR, FREDDIE AUSTIN, MADELEINE BALAGUER, JASMIN BARRAGAN, JOHN PAUL BAZIGNAN, TRAVIS BELL, LAURA BERRIOS, DAMIEN BLANKS, JAMALA BLY, DANNY CARDONA, IRIS CARRASQUILLO, VIVIANA CHAPARRO, FRANK CLARK, ISRAEL COLON, LOURDES COLON, CARLOS E. CORTIJO, JOSE CRUZ, JOSE M. CRUZ, VERONICA CRUZ, XOCHEEL CRUZ, SHANE DANIELS, JOANN DEBRO, MILTON DELACRUZ, ERIK DIAZ, JUSTIN DOUGHERTY, SEAN EDWARDS, RICHARD FARGAS, JENNIFER FELDMETH, JONAS FERNANDEZDIOSA D. FIGUEROA, JOSEPH FIGUEROA, NELSON FLORES-ESCOBAR, JOANNA GONZALEZ, CARLTON GOODWIN, TERRENCE M. GUY, ORLANDO GUZMAN, DANIEL HEADLY, JR., HECTOR HERNANDEZ, RAYMOND IRIZARRY, JONATHAN JAIMAN, JEAN JAYSURA, LAVONE KELLY, ERIC LANDRON, JONATHAN LASANTA, ROSA LEON, JAMES LEONARD, LUIS LOPEZ, JOEL LUCIANO a/k/a JOEL TORRES, EMIL MANZANO, JARELISSE MARTINEZ, JOSE MARTIR, CRYSTAL MCAULEY, ANGEL MEDINA, HERMINIA MEDINA, FREDDIE MERCADO a/k/a FREDDIE MERCADO JOUBERT, DAVID MORALES, CARLOS MORENO, DAYNA NIEVES, RAUL PADILLA, JR. JOSE PENA,RAFAEL PEREZ, XIOMARA PEREZ, JEREMIAH PETERSON, ILIANET PONCE, SCOTT RABA, AMADO RIVERA, ANTONIO RIVERA, JORGE RIVERA, JEFFREY RODRIGUEZ, D.O.B., RICARDO RODRIGUEZ, JUAN LUIS ROMAN, STEPHANIE ROMAN, JENNIFER ROSARIO, SABRINA ROSARIO, FRANCY SANCHEZ, GREGORIA SANCHEZ, JOSHUA SANDS, NEREIDA SANTIAGO, PANAMA SMALLS, JEFFREY W. STILL, EDWINA TAYLOR, ALBERTO TORRES, CHRISTOPHER TORRES, JUAN VEGA, ERNESTO VITAL, TOYIA WHITE, SANFORD WILLIAMS, LAKIESHA YOUNG, TAMIKA YOUNG