Staten Island DA Says “Lock Up Your Mail”

New York ID Theft Ring Steals Mail, Nets Over $5 Million

The New York Times reports that a Staten-Island based identity theft ring was charged this week with gaining access to the personal and financial information of over 200 victims, in a complex fraud scheme that netted over $5 million dollars.

The 26 charged are Nigerian immigrants now facing deportation. Many of the victims, meanwhile, were active duty military who returned to Fort Hood from the Middle East to find their bank accounts drained.

Officials have learned that members of the ID fraud ring targeted their victims’ mailboxes to find identifying information that they then used to open fraudulent accounts.

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. has said “the thieves acquired some of the financial data by stealing mail” and urged residents to use locking mailboxes.

The full story is available here and published below for your convenience:

“A Staten Island-based ring of Nigerian immigrants was charged with gaining access to the personal and financial information of at least 200 people, including active-duty members of the armed forces, and using it to steal in excess of $5 million before the scheme was stopped, officials announced on Wednesday.

The ringleaders recruited other low-level conspirators in five states, as well as in Nigeria, to launder stolen or forged checks, use credit cards and pick up mail, in exchange for a cut of the profit, officials said.

The list of victims included 27 banks and 20 members of the armed forces based in Fort Hood, Tex., including some who were serving in Iraq or Afghanistan at the time of the thefts.

“It takes a certain type of detached cruelty to victimize people in this way,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, who added that one member of the service returned home from duty for Christmas only to find his bank account cleared out.

After raids early Tuesday morning on private homes in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens, 26 people were arrested. A total of 33 people were indicted; 16 on felony charges of enterprise corruption; the others on lesser charges, including grand larceny. Seven of the indicted remained at large, the authorities said, and the investigation was continuing.

The ringleaders were identified as Kazeem Badru, 38; Ganiu Rilwan, 46; and Okoronkwo Okechukwu, 32.

The thieves acquired some of the financial data by stealing mail, said Daniel M. Donovan Jr., the Staten Island district attorney. He urged residents to lock their mailboxes, monitor their credit reports and alert the police to any instance of identity theft.”

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