YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: The arrests of a band of accused thieves who “turned stolen personal information into hard cash” serve as a warning to consumers to immediately notify police when any unusual charges turn up on their credit cards, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said today.
Consumers also should place limits on how much can be charged to those cards at any one time, the prosecutor said.
Otherwise, “someone could buy something that costs $35,000,” he said, during a news conference at the Bergen County Courthouse attended by area police chiefs and members of the media.
The chiefs all head departments that participated in a multi-jurisdictional task force that busted the illegal operation ( SEE: Crew bought $150,000 in stolen goods with credit card IDs ).
The loss totals may increase as additional victims come forward or are discovered, Molinelli told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
Beginning last year, 30 or so police departments received identity theft complaints. Detectives in Saddle Brook began investigating and then contacted the prosecutor’s office, getting the task force ball rolling, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.
Molinelli said the ring was headed by a Paterson woman who bought personal information from a truck driver who worked for a city records storage company.
The woman, 32-year-old Shontera Nicole Jennings, then recruited unauthorized buyers whom she added to the credit card accounts of existing customers.
The trouble, Molinelli said, is that “people like mortgage companies are asking for more information than ever before.”
In this case, he said, Jennings bought “extremely detailed” personal financial information stolen by Kyle Davis, 48, an employee of C. Marino Records, which archives customer files for NJ Lenders Corportation.
The victims had all “recently refinanced or applied for mortgages” through NJ Lenders, which Molinelli said cooperated in the probe — dubbed “Operation Unauthorized User.”
Using the victims’ information, Jennings added accomplices to their accounts, the prosecutor said.
The accomplices then bought more than $150,000 worth of goods at Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Sears and other stores, which were then resold in New York City, Molinelli added, confirming a CLIFFVIEW PILOT from yesterday.
Using the “Account Look-Up” method, the buyers accessed the victims’ credit accounts and then showed a driver’s license or other photo ID to prove they were listed on those accounts, Molinelli said.
Some of the victims went to police after receiving bills from, among others, Comenity Bank (which services Annie Sez, Victoria’s Secret, Lane Bryant and other stores), Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Saks 5th Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Sears, and more, the prosecutor said.
Others received mail from the stores congratulating them on new accounts they hadn’t opened.
Because victims eventually got wise, the crew had to keep finding new ones, Molinelli said.
Under the direction of Chief Steven Cucciniello, the prosecutor’s chief of detectives, the Identity Theft Task Force made 11 arrests while cracking the case.
On Wednesday, investigators executed 11 arrest warrants and five search warrants involving Jennings, Davis and the accused unauthorized buyers. Others were arrested yesterday.
All were ordered held on $300,000 bail each in the Bergen County Jail, charged with trafficking in personal identification, theft and conspiracy.
Molinelli advised consumers to put caps on the single amounts that can be charged to their credit cards.
He also urged credit cards holders to call police immediately “if you have any kind of unusual activity or fraud on your credit card.”
“If the victims don’t come forward,” he said, “we’ll never know.”
Molinelli thanked the following departments and police chiefs for their participation in the multi-jurisdictional task force. Some of those cited attended today’s news conference:
• Bernards Township Police Department under the direction of Police Chief Brian Bobowicz
• Chester Township Police Department under the direction of Police Chief Wayne Martini
• Englewood Police Department under the direction of Police Chief Arthur O’Keefe
• Franklin Lakes Police Department under the direction of Police Chief Joseph Seltenrich
• Ho-Ho-Kus Police Department under the direction of Police Chief John Wanamaker
• Midland Park Police Department under the direction of Police Chief Michael Marra
• Montvale Police Department under the direction of Police Chief Jeremy Abrams
• Morris County Prosecutor’s Office under the direction of Chief of Detectives John R. Speirs
• North Haledon Police Department under the direction of Police Chief Robert Bracco
• Paterson Police Department under the direction of Police Chief William Fraher
• Saddle Brook Police Department under the direction of Police Chief Robert J. Kugler
• Saddle River Police Department under the direction of Police Chief Timothy McWilliams
• Upper Saddle River Police Department under the direction of Police Chief Patrick Rotella
STORY / PHOTOS: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia
Kyle A. Davis, 48, Paterson
Shontera Nicole Jennings, 32, Paterson
Lakia L. “Kia” Thomas, 34, Paterson
Angel M. Leary, 35, Paterson
Mark Gordon, 43, Paterson
Jannelle F. Fields, 35, Waterboro, SC
Randolph Grant Jr., 36, Paterson
Judy Broadnax, 47, Paterson
Oliver J. Hall, 40, Paterson
June W. Mattiex, 55, Wayne
Danisha L. Greene, 35, Paterson
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