Tag Archives: identity theft

NYPD, Lion Cage Shredding holds free public document shredding event at Queens Center


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

The NYPD is working to make sure residents begin the New Year on the right and safe foot.

Together with Lion Cage Shredding, located at 120-10 Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens and Macerich Properties, owner of Queens Center in Elmhurst, the NYPD’s Crime Prevention Section held a free document shredding public event in front of the mall on Sunday to make sure personal information does not get into the wrong hands.

“We want to help people stop becoming victims of [identity theft],” said Sergeant Raymond Morales, from the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau. “It’s important that [the documents] get destroyed properly. This is a first major step on helping prevent [identity theft].”

During the event, people were able to bring in documents with personal information, dump them into two large garbage bins and watch them be destroyed inside the Lion Cage Shredding truck.

“You have to be proactive in taking steps to protect yourself,” said Sergeant Morales.

Participants were also able to bring in their computer hard drives and watch them be destroyed, as a hole was punctured into the hard drive. People were also able to have their electronic devices registered with the NYPD Operations ID Program and sign up to receive a certificate from Lion Cage confirming the destruction of all personal information from Sunday’s event.

“I just think it’s great to do this for the community,” said Regina Pluchinotta, from Ozone Park, who brought in bags of documents to be shredded and watched as her hard drive was destroyed. “You try to be precautious and safe about it all.”

Elmhurst resident Fabian Alsultany brought in two folding shopping carts filled with documents dating back to 1999 which were taking up room in his house.

“This was a real godsend,” said Alsultany. “This just makes life a lot easier. It’s a great service for the city to offer.”

The NYPD and Lion Cage Shredding will be working together with private companies and property owners in the next 10 months to hold document shredding events throughout the five boroughs. The next stop will be in the Bronx, and later dates and locations are to be determined.

For more information on the document shredding events or any other NYPD events, visit the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau website or text “NYPD” to 22828. To find out more about Lion Cage Shredding, visit its official website or Facebook page.

 

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Medical identity theft rising: Steps to protect yourself


| ara@queenscourier.com

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(ARA) – Two million Americans fall victim to medical identity theft each year, according to a study by the Ponemon Institute, commissioned by Experian’s ProtectMyID. While medical identity theft costs victims an average of $22,346, the potential impact can be far greater – medical identity theft could cost some victims their health, or even their lives.

Medical identity theft involves the theft of personal information – such as your name, Social Security number or Medicare number – to obtain medical care, purchase drugs or submit false claims to Medicare. The crime can damage a victim’s credit rating and even be life-threatening if it causes incorrect information to appear in a victim’s personal medical records, warns the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

According to the study, while more Americans now understand just what medical identity theft is, few are taking the key steps that could help prevent it. Only 57 percent of survey respondents check their medical records for accuracy, and nearly one in five (18 percent) say they don’t care about the accuracy of their medical records.

“There are specific things that people can and should do to protect themselves from medical identity theft,” said Ken Chaplin, senior vice president of ProtectMyID. “People have to be vigilant with their personal information and avoid letting their guard down, even with family and friends.”

The Federal Trade Commission recommends you take these steps to help prevent medical identity theft:

* Before you share medical information with anyone, verify who you’re talking to. Never provide information over the phone or through the mail unless you initiated the contact and you’re confident you’re dealing with a legitimate organization. Be aware that medical identity thieves often try to scam consumers by posing as representatives of insurance companies, doctor’s offices, pharmacies and even government agencies.

* Protect your information. Keep paper copies of medical or insurance records and forms in a secure, locked file or drawer. When managing your health or insurance accounts online, be wary of any site that asks you to share sensitive information like your Social Security number, insurance account number or details of your medical conditions. Look for the hallmarks that a website is secure, including a web address (URL) that begins with “https” (the “s” stands for “secure”) and a lock symbol in the lower right-hand corner of the page.

* Picking through trash is a common ploy of identity thieves. Shred your discarded health insurance forms, bills and medical records before disposing of them. Destroy the labels on your prescription pill bottles and packages before throwing them away.

The OIG also offers tips for medical identity theft protection, including:

* Treat your Medicare and Social Security numbers and cards as carefully as you would your credit cards.

* Be wary of anyone who asks for your Medicare number in exchange for “free” medical equipment or services. If what they’re offering is really free, they shouldn’t need your numbers.

* Never let anyone use your Medicare ID card. The Ponemon survey found that a growing number of survey respondents (5 percent more in 2012 than in 2011) have allowed a family member to use their personal identification to obtain medical services, including treatment, health care products or pharmaceuticals. Doing so is against the law, and may afford unscrupulous individuals the chance to use that information for unauthorized purposes.

According to the Ponemon survey, it takes, on average, about a year to resolve an instance of medical identity theft, and a quarter of the survey respondents said it took more than two years. As with a serious medical issue, resolution can be made more challenging depending on how long the problem is allowed to fester.

Take an active role in protecting your medical information from identity thieves. Check your medical records regularly and keep an eye on all your financial and credit accounts. Products like ProtectMyID can help. A comprehensive identity theft detection, protection and resolution product, it can help you prevent the damages caused by identity theft.

 

District Attorney says Queens teacher had sex with student, 13


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

District Attorney says Queens teacher had sex with student, 13

Prosecutors say a New York City public school teacher is being charged with rape for a sexual relationship with a student that began when she was just 13. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown says 44-year-old Charles Oross engaged in a sexual relationship with the teen from January 2009 to April 2010. The district attorney said the encounters happened at the school, Intermediate School 238 in Queens, and in Oross’ car. Oross, of East Islip, N.Y., was awaiting arraignment Thursday. No information about an attorney was immediately available. Read More: Wall Street Journal

 

Tea Party big Mark Meckler pinched for gun possession at LaGuardia Airport Thursday 

A co-founder of an influential Tea Party group was arrested at LaGuardia Airport Thursday for illegally trying to bring a pistol and ammunition aboard a plane, authorities said. Mark Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots had a Glock 27 pistol and 19 bullets in a locked gun box — but he didn’t have a New York State permit for the firepower, which he told authorities he needs because he gets threats. Meckler, 49, handed the gun box to a Delta Airlines ticket agent around 5 a.m. Thursday, Queens prosecutors said. It was discovered during a pre-flight check. Read More: Daily News

 

NYPD cadet arrested for allegedly stealing this mother’s credit card in a $13 million ID theft ring in Queens 

An NYPD cadet was arrested Wednesday for stealing his mother’s credit card as part of a $13 million identity theft ring, authorities said. Raymond Gumti, 23, is accused of taking his mom’s TD Bank card and PIN numbers and using them to create a counterfeit credit card. He put the phony card in the name of another defendant who was indicted as a shopper in the scheme and racked up nearly $13,000 in unauthorized charges at stores like Apple, Louis Vuitton and Bloomingdales, a spokesman for the Queen’s District Attorney’s Office said. Read More: Daily News

 

Santa was really a Rotarian

Santa Claus rang his sleigh bells loudly as he combed the halls of the Queens Centers for Progress (QCP) Children’s Center. Followed closely by Frosty the Snowman, the pair peeked inside various rooms, searching for children. Toys in hand, they entered one at the end of the hallway — to an eruption of delighted squeals. Read More: Queens Courier

 

More Liu Donors Said to Be Examined in Fund-Raising Inquiry

The federal inquiry into the campaign finances of New York City’s comptroller, John C. Liu, a possible mayoral candidate in 2013, appears to be widening, with people knowledgeable about the matter saying Thursday that there has been an increased focus on seeking information from his supporters in the Chinese-American business community. In recent weeks, agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation have delivered subpoenas seeking a broad range of records and other information to a growing circle of Mr. Liu’s more generous donors, said the people knowledgeable about the matter, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. Read More: New York Times

 

Councilman Van Bramer Volunteers At LIC Food Pantry

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and his constituents reached out to help the St. Raphael’s Parish food pantry Thursday. Read More: NY1

 

Cop-slay judge bails

The Brooklyn judge who unleashed a violent ex-con weeks before he allegedly killed a cop was a no-show at work yesterday — the day after Mayor Bloomberg ripped into her for a bail bungle. Judge Evelyn Laporte was nowhere to be seen in Brooklyn Criminal Court as several City Council members denounced her ill-fated decision to spring Lamont Pride without bail after his arrest last month on drug charges. There was a warrant for his arrest in North Carolina for an August shooting when he was busted on Nov.3 in New York for crack and pot possession — but Laporte ignored prosecutors’ pleas for $2,500 bail. Pride, 27, is accused of gunning down Officer Peter Figoski during a Brooklyn home invasion on Monday. Read More: New York Post

 

Kid shoots off finger

The 11-year-old son of a Staten Island school teacher shot off a portion of his finger yesterday while playing with his father’s illegal gun, police said. The West Brighton youth was home alone with his 8-year-old brother in the basement of their single- family home when the gun went off at 2:40 p.m., according to law-enforcement sources. Michael Bilotto, a Department of Environmental Protection construction worker, was taken into custody for possession of an unlicensed handgun, police said. Read More: New York Post

 

Cop slay getaway driver’s lame defense: I drove thugs in exchange for gas money

The getaway driver charged with four others in the slaying of NYPD Officer Peter Figoski admits he knew the accused triggerman was carrying a gun before the botched robbery that led to the Brooklyn cop’s murder. In an exclusive jailhouse interview with the Daily News, Michael Velez, 21, said he looked over to Lamont Pride, who was sitting in the passenger seat and saw the weapon. Velez said he was stunned — and even more so when Pride, 27, put his finger on the trigger of 9-mm. Ruger. Read More: Daily News

 

Hiram Monserrate’s 2009 assault conviction upheld on appeal 

A state appeals court on Thursday upheld disgraced lawmaker Hiram Monserrate’s 2009 assault conviction for roughing up his girlfriend in the lobby of his Queens apartment building three years ago. The four-judge panel dismissed the former Queens pol’s claim that prosecutors failed to prove a key element of the assault charge — that girlfriend Karla Giraldo endured “substantial pain” from a physical attack. Read More: Daily News

War in Iraq officially over


| jlane@queenscourier.com

The Round Up

War in Iraq officially over

After nearly nine years, 4,500 American dead, 32,000 wounded and more than $800 billion, U.S. officials formally shut down the war in Iraq — a conflict that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said was worth the price in blood and money, as it set Iraq on a path to democracy. Panetta stepped off his military plane in Baghdad Thursday as the leader of America’s war in Iraq, but will leave as one of many top U.S. and global officials who hope to work with the struggling nation as it tries to find its new place in the Middle East and the broader world. Read More: Daily News

Figoski helped Brooklyn teen turn life around

Slain cop Peter Figoski had four daughters of his own and could not stand to see a young woman about their age take the wrong path. That woman, now 21, credits him with turning her life around. Velina Chaunce met Figoski when her mother, in desperation, called the 75th Precinct in gritty East New York to report her then-teenage daughter was acting out. Read More: New York Post

Scandals taking poll toll on Liu

Embattled city Comptroller John Liu is turning into a real Liu-ser with voters. A poll out today shows that Liu’s popularity has plummeted — following a torrent of negative publicity centering on a federal probe of his fund-raising operations and other shenanigans. Only 38 percent of voters now approve of the job Liu is doing, with 35 percent disapproving, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. His approval rating is down drastically from a Quinnipiac poll in May, when 57 percent approved of his job performance and 14 percent disapproved. Read More: New York Post

Uniting to help Woodside fire victims

The Woodside community has united to extinguish the needs of the 24 people whose lives were recently devastated by a fatal fire. Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer joined Pastor Daniel Gilland, representatives from the American Red Cross and members of the families displaced by the two-alarm blaze — which spawned in and destroyed the two-story house located at 40-38 61st Street before spreading and causing severe damage to two neighboring homes — to announce a benefit drive organized in support of the victims. Read More: Queens Courier

On Queens Block, Losing a Link to Louis Armstrong

Selma Heraldo lived the entirety of her 88 years in a white, two-story house on 107th Street in Corona, Queens, and her life may have been very different had she not gained new next-door neighbors in 1943 — Louis Armstrong and his wife, Lucille. Heraldo quickly became known as Louis Armstrong’s next-door neighbor, a good friend to the jazz great. After Armstrong died in 1971 and Lucille Armstrong died in 1983, and their house was transformed into the Louis Armstrong House Museum, Heraldo became the main local living link to the couple. But now that link is gone. Heraldo died on December 2 in her house, where she had lived alone for many years. Read More: New York Times

New York Community Trust grant helps find jobs for Far Rockaway residents

At least 60 Far Rockaway residents will land jobs throughout the city in 2012 thanks to a new grant aimed at giving a boost to the isolated neighborhood in southeast Queens. The New York Community Trust awarded a $40,000 grant this month to Ocean Bay Community Development Corp., a local group that partners with public housing residents in Far Rockaway with job initiatives. Read More: Daily News

Jet ‘drug’ rage

The cowardly thug busted for sucker-punching Jet fan James Mohr outside MetLife Stadium Sunday is a drug-dealing ex-con with a lengthy rap sheet, public records show. Merle Lee, 35, of Newton, NJ, was charged with aggravated assault for the attack outside the New Jersey Meadowlands stadium after the Jets’ 37-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday. The brute allegedly sucker-punched Mohr, 23, after the Queens schoolteacher objected to a woman screaming, “F–k New York!” and, “You all deserved what happened on 9/11!” Read More: New York Post

Malcolm X’s daughter locked up after she fails to pay Queens woman she swindled 

Malcolm X’s youngest daughter has been jailed for failing to make good on a promise to pay back the $55,000 she swindled from an elderly Queens woman. A Queens judge ordered Malikah Shabazz held Tuesday night after probation officials said she’d failed to make any of the monthly $1,229 restitution payments she agreed to as part of a plea deal. Shabazz ignored a judge’s order requiring her to live in New York while she serves out a five-year probation, court officials say. They say she’s apparently been living in St. Albans, Vt., above a bar that she’s looking to buy. She had $800 in her pocket when she was busted for the probation violation, a court official said. Read More: Daily News

‘Operation Swiper’ takes down largest ID theft ring in U.S. history


| tcimino@queenscourier.com

It was the largest identity theft takedown in U.S. history.

Last week, 111 people — members of five organized forged credit card and identity theft rings based in Queens and having ties to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East – were charged in 10 indictments with stealing the personal credit information of thousands of unwitting American and European consumers and costing these individuals, financial institutions and retail businesses more than $13 million in losses over a 16-month period.

Eighty six of the defendants are in custody and 25 are presently being sought.

In addition, nearly two dozen of the defendants are variously charged in six indictments with participating in burglaries and robberies throughout Queens. For example, four defendants are charged with conspiring to commit a bank robbery in Forest Hills. Five are charged with stealing more than $95,000 worth of cargo from John F. Kennedy Airport and seven are accused of stealing approximately $850,000 worth of computer equipment from the Citigroup Building in Long Island City.

“Many of the defendants charged are accused of going on nationwide shopping sprees, staying at five-star hotels, renting luxury automobiles and private jets, and purchasing tens of thousands of dollars worth of high-end electronics and expensive handbags and jewelry with forged credit cards that contained the account information of unsuspecting consumers,” said District Attorney Richard A. Brown. “Even after the culprits are caught and prosecuted, their victims are still faced with the difficult task of having to repair their credit ratings and financial reputations. In some cases, that process can take years.”

Brown said that more than 90 of the defendants have been charged in five indictments charging 784 pattern acts with, among other crimes, Enterprise Corruption under New York

State’s Organized Crime Control Act. They are accused of being members and associates of organized criminal enterprises that operated in Queens and elsewhere and that, between May 2010 and September 2011, systematically schemed to defraud thousands of unsuspecting consumers and financial institutions – such as American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Discover Card.

According to the indictments, the defendants fraudulently obtained credit card account numbers through various means which were then used to manufacture forged credit and identification cards.

Once the counterfeit cards were created, according to the indictments, they were ultimately given to teams of “shoppers” who were sent out on shopping expeditions in New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Los Angeles and other areas of the United States to purchase high-end electronics and other merchandise – such as designer handbags, game consoles and jewelry – which either had been requested or could easily be fenced and re-sold, typically over the Internet.

During the shopping sprees, some of the shoppers used forged credit cards to stay at such five-star hotels as the Fontainbleau and The Royal Palm in Miami Beach and the Las Casitas Village, the high-end private villas of the El Conquistor in Puerto Rico. They are also alleged to have used forged credit cards to rent such luxurious automobiles as Lamborghinis and Porsches and, in one instance, a private jet to take them from New York to Florida.

The District Attorney said that the investigation – dubbed “Operation Swiper” – leading to the indictments and the arrests began in October 2009 when officers assigned to the Police Department’s Identity Theft Squad commenced a joint investigation with the District Attorney’s Economic Crimes Bureau into an identity theft ring operating in South Ozone Park.

The investigation involved physical surveillance, intelligence gathering and court-authorized electronic eavesdropping on dozens of different telephones in which thousands of conversations were intercepted – many of which required translation from Russian, Mandarin and Arabic to English.

The indictments charge that Imran Khan, Ali Khweiss, Anthony Martin, Sanjay (a.k.a. Rocky) Deowsarran and Amar Singh were “bosses” of criminal enterprises and received the necessary raw material – lists of credit card account numbers and various blank credit cards. The materials were alleged to have come from overseas – unknown individuals in such places as Russia, Libya, Lebanon and China – or from statewide suppliers, such as “skimmers” (individuals who worked in a restaurant or bar, retail store or financial institution and used a skimming device to swipe a consumer’s credit card information) or “Internet suppliers” (who obtained credit card accounts through illegal web sites).

The boss then allegedly sent the stolen account numbers to a “manufacturer” who re-encoded the information onto the magnetic strips of blank credit cards using a “reverse” skimming device. The manufacturer was also allegedly responsible for putting the written four security numbers on the front of a credit card, as well as the seven security numbers on the back, as well as writing and embossing the account number on the credit card.

Once the forged credit cards were completed, the items were distributed to the criminal enterprise’s “shopping crews,” which consisted of “crew leaders” and “shoppers.” Crew leaders allegedly supplied the fraudulent items to the shoppers and oversaw their planned shopping expeditions throughout New York and the U.S.

Among the local malls targeted by the shoppers were the Queens Center Mall, the Westchester Mall, the Americana Mall, the Roosevelt Field Mall, the Walt Whitman Mall and the Smithtown Mall.

According to the charges, aiding the shoppers were collusive store owners or employees who worked within a particular retail store where the shoppers were making their purchases or in a bank where they had access to cardholder information and could check the information for high value targets and/or steal credit card information from the available files.

Sometimes, it is alleged, a fraud ring would employ an “impersonator,” an individual who contacted financial institutions or retail stores and impersonated the true cardholder and made inquires in order to check the viability of the credit. Also employed were “bust out crews,” individuals who used the skimmed information of another member of the criminal enterprise to make thousands of dollars in purchases.

Once a shopper purchased high-end merchandise with forged credit cards, the merchandise was turned over to the crew leader who, in turn, gave the merchandise to the boss of the operation. The boss would then allegedly contact a “fence” – such as Fnu Gustawian, Kah Sheng Poh, Allen Lam or Benny Ahoo Ahdoot – and sell the merchandise to the fence at a discounted price. The fence, in turn, would then allegedly offer the merchandise for re-sale to the public.

Among the items allegedly recovered as a result of the court-authorized search warrants were approximately $650,000 in cash, seven handguns (two defaced), a box truck full of electronics, computers, shoes and watches, skimmers, card readers, embossers and various amounts of raw material, such as blank credit cards and fake identifications.

In addition to the counterfeit credit card and identity theft charges, some of the defendants are accused of participating in burglaries and robberies.

Queens’ Morning Roundup – 10/10/2011 – Queens teachers disciplined


| jlane@queenscourier.com

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Queens’ Morning Roundup – 10/10/2011

 

What did you learn in school today?

Over 20 Department of Education employees have been disciplined over the course of the past 2 years due to inappropriate conduct. Angel Vazquez, a teacher at P.S. 117 in Queens was fired after complaints that he waved a box cutter at students, and berated them. Richard Van Grover, a teacher at Junior High School 157 in Queens also acted indecent with students. Van Grover sexually harassed 10 students by giving them intimate details of his life as a “Casanova”. Van Grover was fined and relocated to another school. No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty talk. Read more: Daily News

 

More details emerge on Queens’ identity theft ring

More light has been shed on the Queens based identity theft ring that was busted last week. Details of how the ring was operated were released by the prosecutors over the weekend. An estimated 13 million dollars’ worth of losses comes as a result of the crooks misdeeds. Read more about the entire operation at: Daily News

 

YaGotTheWrongGuy

Police apprehended a suspect in the iPhone theft that was perpetrated last week. The highly publicized theft revolved around the iPhone app iGotYa which took a picture of the thief and emailed it to the victim. Brian Chattoo, 23, from Ozone Park was arrested Saturday when he ran from police. Chattoo has a rap sheet with 14 prior offenses ranging from grand larceny to auto theft, but claims he is not the man in the photo. Read more at: Daily News

 

Court date approaches for Queens drunk driver

On July 24th after a night of boozing Tanisha Gomez, 26, of Queens drove the wrong way on I-95 and crashed into an oncoming car. This crash resulted in the death of 29 year old Reginald Lee. Ms. Gomez’s court date is set for October 18th, where she is charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, manslaughter, drunken driving, and vehicular assault. Read more at: Wall Street Journal