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Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.

District Attorney, New York County

For Immediate Release
April 30, 2014

DA VANCE: CYBERCRIMINAL ORGANIZATION INDICTED FOR SKIMMING CREDIT CARDS, FORGING CHECKS, FRAUDULENTLY ORDERING CREDIT REPORTS

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the indictments of GERALD SPEARS, 39, SAMUEL SANTANA, 36, and nine additional defendants for stealing thousands of dollars by skimming credit cards from a midtown Manhattan Hale & Hearty restaurant; creating counterfeit checks; and fraudulently ordering credit reports to obtain additional information about victims from whom they had already stolen identifying information. The defendants are charged in New York State Supreme Court with Identity Theft in the First Degree, Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, Grand Larceny in the Second, Third, and Fourth Degrees, and Forgery in the Second Degree, among other charges.  

“Determined cybercriminals will exploit any and every opportunity to steal personal information,” said District Attorney Vance. “These defendants are charged with using a panoply of tricks – from skimming credit cards at a popular Manhattan food chain, to forging checks, and accessing credit reports to steal even more information from their victims.

“Cybercrime and identity theft is a persistent, growing threat, but our state’s laws in this area are outdated. I am urging the legislature to make easy fixes that would give prosecutors stronger, more effective tools to combat cybercriminals. For example, under current laws, which were largely written more than a decade ago, a defendant who uses the identity of one victim to steal $2,000 is facing the same top charge as a defendant who assumes the identity of 250 victims to steal $500,000. This does not reflect the enormous impact that identity theft is having on innocent individuals and businesses. The law should be amended to allow for aggregation of theft amounts across victims, and therefore, stricter sentences.”

James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations New York, said: “The defendants charged today conspired to steal the identities of dozens of unsuspecting New Yorkers and worked feverishly to bankrupt them and defraud their creditors. Through our Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, HSI dismantles these sophisticated fraud and theft schemes and protects the integrity of consumers' financial information and the United States financial system. ”

According to the indictment and statements made on the record in court, the defendants stole the personal identifying information of at least 60 victims and made thousands of dollars’ worth of fraudulent transactions through a multifold scheme involving three principal operations: skimming credit and debit cards; creating counterfeit checks; and accessing victims’ credit reports to steal personal identifying information.  

Credit Card Skimming Scheme

According to the indictment, in the summer of 2013, SPEARS provided his girlfriend, IESHA JACKSON, with a skimming device to steal customers’ personal information at a Hale & Hearty restaurant in Manhattan where she was employed. JACKSON skimmed more than 20 credit cards each day before she returned the device to SPEARS.

According to the charges, SPEARS shared the stolen credit card information with LEONCE CUNNINGHAM, who helped SPEARS and SAMUEL SANTANA create fake cards with the information. Together, SPEARS, SANTANA, and four other defendants – MARLON ANDREW, KESHA RAMOS, CHASTITY ROSARIO, and JENNIFER LOPEZ – made more than $90,000 worth of fraudulent purchases using the credit card numbers skimmed at Hale & Hearty, including purchases of jewelry, designer clothing, and electronics and cash advances at Empire City Casino in Yonkers. The defendants also attempted to make approximately $118,000 worth of additional charges using those bank card numbers. 

Counterfeit Check Scheme

According to the indictment and statements made on the record in court, between March 2013 and April 2014, SPEARS, SANTANA, and ANDREW created counterfeit checks drawn on victims’ accounts, made payable to the defendants and their accomplices. In some cases, the victims were the accomplices’ employers; the defendants copied the account information from genuine checks drawn from victims’ accounts and made the counterfeit checks out to an accomplice. The aforementioned defendants, HAWK OLIVERA, and MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ recruited and supervised others to negotiate the forged checks, including KESHA RAMOS, JENNIFER LOPEZ, and CHASTITY ROSARIO.  The group cashed and deposited more than $50,000 worth of counterfeit checks. 

Credit Report Fraud

According to the indictment, between April 2011 and November 2013, SANTANA used stolen personal identifying information to order victims’ credit reports; these reports provided SANTANA with information about credit card accounts owned by the victims, as well as additional personal identifying information of the victims. Accomplices then used that stolen information to make unauthorized withdrawals from the victims’ bank accounts, open new credit card accounts in the victims’ names, and use the credit cards for fraudulent charges. Together, SANTANA and his accomplices made more than $20,000 worth of withdrawals from victims’ accounts and more than $6,000 worth of purchases using credit cards that were fraudulently opened in victims’ names. 

Tips on How to Prevent Identity Theft

Approximately 300 cases of identity theft are reported to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office each month. District Attorney Vance offered the following tips for individuals looking to detect or protect themselves from cybercrime and identity theft:

  • Order a credit report at least once a year. Doing so can help individuals determine whether a credit report has been requested by an unknown party or if any accounts have been opened in their names without permission.  
  • Review credit cards annually and cancel any unused credit cards. 
  • Do not store financial information on a computer, and never send sensitive information over the Internet unless the site is secure and the recipient is a fully-trusted person or organization.
  • Do not respond to unsolicited emails from strangers, and be wary of downloading suspicious files or hyperlinks to unfamiliar websites. 
  • Shred any documents containing personal information and protect your mail.

Those who believe they may have been the victim of identity theft are encouraged to call the Manhattan DA’s Cybercrime and Identity Theft Hotline at 212-335-9600.

Assistant District Attorney Tracy Conn, Deputy Chief of the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau, and Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Roper are handling the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Brenda Fischer, Chief of the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau, and Executive Assistant District Attorney David Szuchman, Chief of the Investigation Division. Investigator Mariangela Perrotta, Supervising Investigator Robert Muldoon, former Senior Investigator Jason Malone, Fellow Mark Frassetto, and Cybercrime Analysts Nora DeSimone and Stephen Moccia provided valuable assistance with the case. 

District Attorney Vance thanked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Special Agent Danny Lee, as well as Hale & Hearty, for their assistance with the investigation. 

[1] The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Defendant Information:

GERALD SPEARS, D.O.B. 1/21/1975
Bronx, NY

Charges:

Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 1 count

  • Criminal Possession of Forgery Devices, a class D felony, 2 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 11 counts
  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 46 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 24 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 57 counts
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 2 counts
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class E felony, 7 counts
  • Identity Theft in the Second Degree, a class E felony, 16 counts
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 8 counts
  • Petit Larceny, a class A misdemeanor, 4 counts
  • Identity Theft in the Third Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 2 counts
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Petit Larceny, a class B misdemeanor, 4 counts

SAMUEL SANTANA, D.O.B. 6/9/1977
Bronx, NY

Charges:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 1 count
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 5 counts
  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 14 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 10 counts
  • Forgery in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 3 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 6 counts
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class E felony, 4 counts
  • Identity Theft in the Second Degree, a class E felony, 11 counts
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 2 counts
  • Petit Larceny, class A misdemeanor, 5 counts

MARLON ANDREW, D.O.B. 11/16/1990
Bronx, NY

Charges:

  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 2 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts
  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 11 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 3 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 4 counts
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Identity Theft in the Second Degree, a class E felony, 5 counts
  • Petit Larceny, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count

HAWK OLIVERA, D.O.B. 6/24/1993
Bronx, NY

Charges:

  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 4 counts
  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 5 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 4 counts
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Identity Theft in the Second Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count

MIGUEL RODRIGUEZ, D.O.B. 6/22/1982
Bronx, NY

Charges:

  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 1 count
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 1 count
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

IESHA JACKSON, D.O.B. 12/25/1984
Bronx, NY

Charges:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 1 count
  • Criminal Possession of Forgery Devices, a class D felony, 2 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 11 counts
  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 46 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 24 counts
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 57 counts
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class E felony, 6 counts
  • Identity Theft in the Second Degree, a class E felony, 16 counts
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 8 counts
  • Petit Larceny, a class A misdemeanor, 4 counts
  • Identity Theft in the Third Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 2 counts
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Petit Larceny, a class B misdemeanor, 4 counts

KESHA RAMOS, D.O.B. 01/18/1987
Bronx, NY

Charges:

  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 1 count
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 2 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Identity Theft in the Second Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

CHASTITY ROSARIO, D.O.B. 8/07/1975
Bronx, NY

Charges:

  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 5 counts
  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 16 
  • counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 8 counts
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class E felony, 3 counts
  • Identity Theft in the Second Degree, a class E felony, 3 counts
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 3 counts
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Petit Larceny, a class B misdemeanor, 2 counts

JENNIFER LOPEZ, D.O.B. 9/16/1985
Bronx, NY

Charges:

  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts
  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 5 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 2 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Identity Theft in the Second Degree, a class E felony, 3 counts
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 2 counts

LEONCE CUNNINGHAM, D.O.B. 7/30/1977
Hollis, NY 

Charges:

  • Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 3 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class E felony, 2 counts
  • Identity Theft in the Second Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 6 counts
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count
  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Petit Larceny, a class B misdemeanor, 2 counts

IDAIR MELENDEZ, D.O.B. 12/16/1985
New York, NY

Charges:

  • An Attempt to Commit the Crime of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

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