MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — An extensive network of 55 scam artists, some who were gang affiliates, ripped off $2 million from major banks and credit card companies and stole hundreds of identities from Jewish charity donors, prosecutors said Friday.
The scammers took the bank account and social security numbers of wealthy patrons of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation and other sources between May 2010 and September 2011. One victim was The Starr Foundation, whose chairman is former AIG CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg.
Prosecutors say "insider" Tracey Nelson, 24, worked at the UJA for three years and stole hundreds of identities from people who contributed to the organization. The personal and financial information she stole was copied and sold to other members of the network who used it to get cash from Chase bank, TD bank and others, official said.
"She stole from charities, foundations, Jewish associations, corporations, law firm and significantly hundreds form personal bank account holders," Assistant District Attorney Beth Potashnick said at Nelson's arraignment Friday, where the suspect was ordered held without bail.
"UJA-Federation suspended the employee on August 1, 2011, upon being identified by the District Attorney’s office in connection with these activities, and the employee has been terminated from our employment," the organization said in a statement.
Members of Brooklyn sects of the Bloods and Crips, as well as a gang called the Outlaws, were participants in the criminal enterprise, underscoring the trend of street criminals moving their illicit activities online, prosecutors said.
A bank teller at the Seventh Avenue and 37th Street Chase branch was also among those indicted. That employee, Karen Chance, 32, allegedly accessed account information from several customers.
Customers of an Audi dealership in Brooklyn was also victimized.
During the course of the 18-month investigation, one person under investigation was murdered in Brooklyn. When his body was found, he had counterfeit checks used in the scam in his possession, the DA said.
“No organization or individual is immune to the threat of cybercrime,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement. “From ATM skimmers, to waiters stealing credit card info, to the exploitation of systemic weaknesses in bank systems, we are attacking cybercrime and identity theft head on."
They members face charges including conspiracy, grand larceny, identity theft, and possession of a forged instrument.