CROWN HEIGHTS — Brooklyn gangs are using teenage molls to carry out a massive identity-theft scheme that has already funneled thousands of dollars from banks across Central Brooklyn directly into the drug trade, police said.
"The one problem we’re having is identity theft, particularly checking accounts and fraudulent credit cards," said Deputy Inspector John Lewis, commanding officer of Crown Heights' 71st Precinct. "A lot of the gang members are using the scam as a way of funding other criminal activities."
Criminals recruit young girls to open bogus accounts using homemade checks — a DIY scam that has plagued the 71st Precinct and its neighbors for the better part of a year — taking advantage of the quick turnaround for new debit cards to clear hundreds in cash from ATMs before the banks get wise.
"Usually they’ll find a high school girl and they’ll scam her, depositing a large amount in her name," anywhere from $1,000 to $9,000, a law enforcement source told DNAinfo New York. "They’ll withdraw $500 and give her like $100."
The rest of the money goes directly into the drug trade in Crown Heights, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and Flatbush, police said.
"They’re getting money from the banks and they’re using that to fund their narcotics operation," the source said. "It's hard to prosecute and the banks aren't always cooperative."
Although police in the 71st Precinct have been chasing it for months, the crime has become particularly popular north of Eastern Parkway. Grand larcenies, the category that includes identity theft as well as most phone snatches, has risen nearly 35 percent in Crown Heights' 77th Precinct over last year.
"We've been seeing it two to three times a week for almost a year," the source said.