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DA Vance Busts 37 Member Check Fraud Scheme that Netted Over $150K

Identity Theft, Forgery and Grand Larceny crimes are fairly easy crimes to perpetrate and depending your scheme, fairly easy to get away with. That is, of course, until you get lazy, sloppy or greedy and you get caught. Why, however, risk significant mandatory incarceration by selling cocaine or firearms when you can forge a few checks and make yourself six figures? Well, as tongue and cheek as that may be, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has an answer for you as to why you should do none of the above. If you perpetrate a fraud offense such as those allegedly committed by a Brooklyn based crew of 37 individuals, Vance, et al. will be knocking on your door (actually, they – not including Vance – may be knocking it down).

According to Manhattan’s chief prosecutor, 37 members of an alleged organized check fraud and money laundering ring now face an indictment charging members with a wide range of felonies including Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, Money Laundering in the Second Degree, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, IDentity Theft in the First Degree and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree. These crimes range from “E” felonies punishable by up to four years in prison to “C” felonies punishable by up to fifteen years in custody.

Prosecutors claim that from about December 2009 through October 2010, some of the defendants offered clients of Chase and Citibank money in exchange for access to their bank accounts. Upon doing so, the accused created counterfeit or fake checks. These fake checks contained accurate account information of at least 30 individuals who were unaware of the scheme. Likely recognizing the generally lack of security at large banks, the alleged fraudsters then deposited these fraudulent checks into the accounts of the cooperating Chase and Citibank clients who were paid to permit access to their accounts. As soon as the money cleared from the fake deposits, it is further alleged that the money was then withdrawn. This money, at least in part, was alleged to have been used to purchase more than 250 US Postal Money Orders. Between both banks, the total loss due to the fake transactions is more than $150,000.

There are few telling things about this prosecution. In no particular order, these “messages” are as follows: (1) Financial frauds are the crimes of today and the future. While prosecutors will certainly pursue prison for many of these defendants, the reality of the law is that these crimes “pay” in that barring a prior felony conviction, prison is not mandatory. While a judge will likely sentence some of these defendants to prison should they be convicted, merely selling a couple glassiness of cocaine or crack potentially carries a mandatory sentence. Possessing a loaded firearm without a permit will send you to prison for at least three and one half years. If you are pursuing a “career in crime,” these fraud offenses are less dangerous to those who perpetrate them and are arguably relatively easy to complete. Until some of these statutes get more teeth and banks do a better job preventing fraud, these crimes are likely to continue to soar. (2) Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. is making his own mark on white-collar fraud crimes. While his predecessor, Robert Morgenthau, certainly pursued these crimes and created one of the first Cybercrime and Identity Theft Units, DA Vance is continuing and furthering the prosecutions of these offenses. Arguably the financial capital of the world, on his watch, Vance will not allow New York City to become the capital of financial fraud.

It is likely that over the next few weeks, those “lesser” defendants will plea out, receive offers or resolve their cases. The “bigwigs” and “bosses,” on the other hand, will probably feel the wrath of Vance as he sends a message to would be financial thieves….Not in New York. Not on my Watch.

To better understand the crimes of Identity Theft, Grand Larceny, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument and other crimes addressed here, either follow the specific links above or review the pertinent information through the websites and blogs below.

Crotty Saland PC, a New York criminal defense firm, represents those accused of theft and larceny related crimes throughout New York City and the region. Our two founding New York criminal defense attorneys, Elizabeth Crotty and Jeremy Saland, served as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Bureau and Identity Theft Major Case section respectively. Further, each of our founding partners served in the Trial Division.

ALLEGATION: Grand Larceny, Money Laundering, Identity Theft, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument – Check Fraud Ring

PROSECUTING AGENCY: Manhattan District Attorney’s Office

WHO: EARL BARRANCO, AUDLEY BARRANCO, LAVARDO BARRANCO, MAURICE HILTON, ANDRE BEVANS, CHRISTIAN R. CAMPBELL, KEMAR COHEN, EBONY COLLINS, ARIELLE CRUMP, KERVENS DUFOUR, ALLISON GNOINSKI, LASHAA HARRIS, ANTOINE HAWKINS, JELISA FRANKLIN, CODEL GLEAN, BRITTANY GRAY, ROBERT HUNTER, JAMES R. LEVEILLE, TYIESHA M. LLEWELLYN, SHANTI MITCHELL, KENNISE MOSLEY, JEFFREY PIERRE-LOUIS, KENNETH S. PRICE, CRYSTAL REED, DANITA SADLER, DALE AUSTIN SMALL, NORA SANTIAGO, MARLON SCOTT SINCLAIR, TEPREME SCALES, JOVANNA SOTO, BRITNEY WATSON, TIFFANY YATES

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