Nashville pastor, associate accused of getting grant money for non-existent program

“A Nashville area pastor and his associate have been indicted after TBI agents said they secured state grant money for an addiction treatment program that didn’t exist.
Clinton Lewis, 48, of Hermitage and Aundre Trice, 38, of Antioch are charged with four counts of theft each, according to a news release from TBI.
Agents said between 2011 and 2015, Lewis, a Mt. Hopewell Baptist Church pastor since 2002, and Trice received more than $60,000 in grant money from the Tennessee Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for an addiction recovery program.
TBI said the clients listed in the program never received any treatment. Some clients listed were even in jail, prison or had died. The counselors listed in the program weren’t aware it was in operation, agents said,

Lewis and Trice were booked into Davidson County Jail Friday on $10,000 bonds each.”

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CHINATOWN, Manhattan (WABC) — Five people were arrested and large shipments of fake perfume seized in a major raid in Lower Manhattan Wednesday.

Agents with the Department of Homeland Security say businesses were selling dangerous chemicals being passed off as designer products.

The perfume bottles were labeled to make them look like top-of-the-line, brand-name fragrances, but officials said the knock-off scents can contain urine, antifreeze and other unpleasant, flammable or dangerous chemicals that burn when applied to the skin.

The NYPD made the arrests, while federal agents from Homeland Security Investigations seized the merchandise. Shops and warehouses were targeted, with authorities executing nine search warrants across the city in what was described as a two-year joint undercover operation. More than 10,000 boxes were seized.

“What you’re getting is a substandard product,” Homeland Security investigator Angel Melendez said. “You’re getting a product that you don’t know what’s included in it. So these products have been smuggled into the United States utilizing various methodologies. And once they’re here, they’re repackaged and then just distributed. In this particular case, they were distributed to various businesses in the New York City area, and some of them actually made it to e-commerce sites as well.”

Containers packed with the fragrances reportedly came through Port Elizabeth to a temporary warehouse on Henry Street in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Authorities say they were repackaged on Grand Avenue and Broadway, both in Queens, and stored at a storage facility on the BQE. They were then shipped throughout the country, including to Florida, Illinois, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia and Washington D.C.

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Gang members charged with running $414G identity-theft ring

New York City NY April 28 2016 More than three dozen members of a Bloods-affiliated gang were charged Tuesday with running a $414,000 identity-theft ring focused on making purchases with stolen credit card accounts at Barneys, prosecutors said Tuesday.

In all, 39 gang members, who called themselves the “Pop Out Boys,” used stolen bank information it pulled from the Dark Web to create their own credit cards to shop at Barneys and Saks Fifth Avenue, said NYPD Inspector Joseph Dowling.

Their gang name referred to their flashy lifestyle. “They sort of pop out, wearing expensive clothes, a lot of popping the cork on champagne bottles,” Dowling said.

One defendant, Larry Dathan, raps under the name Big B’Z, Dowling said. In one song, “Trapping out da Uber,” he raps about using the car service for getting around while committing crimes.

Detectives executed eight search warrants, finding five handguns and five “credit card mills,” which included computers, credit-card making equipment and cash, Dowling said.

Investigators recovered the equipment at the apartments of defendants in Brooklyn and Queens.

“In at least one case, an individual is accused of making nearly twenty trips to the same luxury department store to buy designer clothes and merchandise,” DA Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement.

The suspects bought and resold Goyard handbags and other luxury items, then used the cash to fund nightclub outings and trips to Miami, California and Georgia, police said.

Dowling said the crew has 59 members, with ages ranging from 16 to the 30s.

Detectives caught wind of the alleged fraud while investigating another case at Barneys. They saw some of the defendants shopping with a stack of credit cards, Dowling said.

If one didn’t work, they’d use another one,” he said.

Younger gang members, millennials in particular, have been moving towards credit card and identity theft crimes because they grew up using computers, Dowling said.

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Two New York Men Arraigned On Wire Fraud Charges

NEWARK N.J. – Two New York men who allegedly defrauded credit card companies of hundreds of thousands of dollars are expected to appear in court later today, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Nikolay Krechet, 45, of Queens, New York, and James Olla, 24, of Brooklyn, New York, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and four counts of wire fraud. They were originally charged by complaint on May 28, 2015, and indicted by a federal grand jury on Feb. 18, 2016. They both arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre in Newark federal court and entered pleas of not guilty.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From January 2014 to August 2015, Krechet, Olla, and others procured stolen information related to credit cards belonging to various individuals, including a victim living in New Jersey. Using this stolen information, the conspirators obtained gift cards from various retailers and then either sold the cards or used them to purchase goods, which they then sold.

Each count of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher; the U.S. Secret Service, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Kenneth Pleasant; and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the director of Assistant Inspector in Charge James R. Buthorn, with the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Svetlana M. Eisenberg of the General Crimes Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Devlin of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit.

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Check-Cashing Scheme Voided

Multi-Agency Effort Disrupts U.S. Treasury Check-Cashing and Identity Theft Ring

The treasury checks were meant for military families, taxpayers receiving refunds, and Social Security beneficiaries—but they wound up in the hands of thieves instead.

From June 2012 to September 2014, a band of 19 criminals in Atlanta ran a large-scale U.S. Treasury check-cashing and identity theft ring that defrauded the federal government and retail stores of nearly $1 million. The ring included check suppliers, sellers, identification manufacturers, and “check runners” who used fake driver’s licenses to cash stolen checks.

At the center of it all was career criminal Asad Abdullah, who orchestrated the elaborate scheme from inside a Georgia state prison. With regular access to contraband cellphones, Abdullah was able to contact his younger brothers in Atlanta, and he soon had the resources he needed to mobilize the family-run criminal enterprise.

Here’s how it worked: Thieves stole checks from various sources, including the U.S. mail, and middlemen purchased the checks at a percentage of their face value, usually 25 percent. Meanwhile, identification manufacturers were paid to produce counterfeit Georgia driver’s licenses matching the names and addresses of the victims, but with photos of the scheme’s check runners, who would cash the checks at grocery stores, discount supermarkets, and check-cashing outlets.

While U.S. Treasury check-cashing was a regular activity for Abdullah’s crew, the ambitious enterprise also engaged in credit card fraud. Inside sources working at big-box stores with regular access to customer and store credit card data provided the thieves with a steady flow of personal information. This data was used to produce counterfeit identification documents so the fraudsters could pose as real store club members. Trips to stores throughout Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama resulted in brand new replacement credit cards that were ultimately used to purchase gift cards, gas, groceries, and other items.

The ring was finally derailed following a series of early morning raids and takedowns on September 24, 2014, which turned up weapons, cash, and identity document manufacturing hardware.

“The 16-month investigation was an enormous cooperative effort involving numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement resources,” said an FBI Atlanta agent assigned to the case.

As part of the investigation, a confidential informant assisted the FBI and other law enforcement personnel in recovering stolen checks and false identifications. Several stores also agreed to support the investigation by cashing the stolen checks, thus aiding the Bureau and other agencies in identifying members of the scheme.

“Fraud and identity theft crimes are a serious problem in Atlanta,” added the case agent. “Our combined efforts in this particular case serve as a warning to would-be criminals on the brink of preying on unsuspecting victims.”

Sentencing was announced on February 16, 2016 for 18 of the 19 Atlanta criminals convicted for their roles in the crime ring. The 19th and final defendant is scheduled to be sentenced in the near future.

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Egg Donation and Surrogacy Scam California Woman Robbed Would-Be Parents of Money and Hope

Allison Layton, who owned a California company called Miracles Egg Donation (Miracles), claimed she was in the business of helping infertile couples have children. But her business turned out to be a fraud, and she ended up stealing her victims’ hopes and dreams as well as their money.

Would-be parents paid Miracles tens of thousands of dollars—sometimes their life savings—for egg donation and surrogacy services that Layton promised to coordinate. Instead, during a three-year period beginning in 2008, she defrauded couples, egg donors, and surrogate mothers while living a lavish lifestyle off the proceeds.

“This was not a typical white-collar case,” said Special Agent Dana Eads, who led the investigation from the FBI’s Los Angeles Division. “Many of the victims were in a vulnerable place in their lives—working against their biological clocks and trying to afford this expensive and time-consuming procedure. Some told the judge that because of Layton’s actions, they had effectively missed the opportunity to have children.”

The fees paid to Miracles by would-be parents—known in the surrogacy world as intended parents—were supposed to go into escrow accounts to be withdrawn for expenses related to surrogacy or egg donation. But Layton took the money and spent it on her own $60,000 wedding, a new vehicle for her husband, and high-end shopping sprees she flaunted on social media.

As a result, egg donors, surrogates, attorneys, and others often were not paid for the services they provided, and many intended parents—including some who lived overseas—failed to get the services they paid for.

“It became like a Ponzi scheme,” Eads explained. “Early on, some people got the services they paid for. But then Layton began shuffling funds to cover some clients’ services and not others. And when it all finally collapsed, nobody was getting anything.”

When confronted by clients, Layton lied about why payments had not been made and refunds not issued. She led victims to believe they might soon be paid, when, in fact, many were not. Eventually, several victims contacted the FBI while others filed reports with the local police department in Glendora, California. Court records indicate that more than 40 victims lost in excess of $270,000.

Layton maintained she had simply made poor business decisions, but through interviews, bank records, and e-mail correspondence, Eads soon uncovered the fraud.

“The scam was apparent, especially when we examined her bank records,” Eads said. “Layton regularly told clients their checks—which she never wrote—must have been lost in the mail. She told that to so many people. That story, told the same way again and again, was a clear indication of her attempt to hide the truth.”

In 2014, Layton was charged with wire fraud. In a pre-indictment plea agreement with federal prosecutors, she admitted defrauding the victims, and in September 2015, a judge sentenced the 38-year-old to 18 months in prison.

Considering the damage that she caused—both financial and emotional—some of Layton’s victims believe she got off too easy. Eads understands how they feel. “But as a result of this case,” she said, “Layton is now a convicted felon, and part of the plea she accepted is that she can never work in this industry again.”

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Countering the Growing Intellectual Property Theft Threat

In 2008, a new federal law creating stricter penalties for criminals who engaged in intellectual property theft was enacted to keep pace with globalization, e-commerce, and technology advances.

Fast forward to 2016: Technological advances continue at an even faster pace, dramatically increasing the threat posed by criminals who steal trade secrets, produce and/or traffic in counterfeit products, and infringe on copyrights. One important factor in this increase is the global expansion of online marketplaces, which aids international and domestic criminal organizations in trafficking in counterfeit goods.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced a new strategy that involves partnering more closely with businesses in an effort to combat these types of crimes more effectively. Said Attorney General Loretta Lynch, “Through this new approach, we intend to provide information and resources to individuals and companies that will help them identify and disrupt attempts on their intellectual property, extend greater protection to American commerce as a whole, and safeguard the health and safety of individual Americans.”

And the FBI—working with its investigative partners at the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (NIPRCC)—will play an integral part in this strategy.

The Bureau has already been collaborating for years with brand owners, copyright holders, and trademark holders because we know the harm that intellectual property theft causes: legitimate businesses lose billions of dollars in revenue and suffer damaged reputations, consumer prices go up, the U.S. and global economies are robbed of jobs and tax revenue, product safety is reduced, and sometimes lives are even put at risk. FBI efforts with these businesses to date have involved shared information, aggressive criminal initiatives based on current or emerging trends, and investigations.

Under the FBI’s new strategy, we’re expanding our efforts to work with third-party entities—such as online marketplaces, payment service providers, and advertisers—that may inadvertently enable the activities of criminals.

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Financial Fraud The Disney Resort That Never Was

Thomas W. Lucas, Jr. was such an effective liar that he was able to convince hundreds of investors—even members of his own family—that he had inside information about a Disney resort to be built in Texas that would make the nearby scrubland worth a fortune for those who bought it ahead of time.

Of course, there was no “Frontier Disney,” as Lucas claimed, but using false documents, forged signatures, and phony presentations, he was able to pocket nearly $450,000 in real estate fees over a four-year period and cause investors to lose approximately $20 million.

“Thomas Lucas Jr. fooled savvy investors and very intelligent people,” said Special Agent Rick Velasquez, who investigated the case from the FBI’s Dallas Division. “He was a very believable guy.”

From 2006 to 2010, Lucas defrauded more than 250 investors. He claimed to have insider information regarding a Disney resort and theme park planned for a rural area about 50 miles north of Dallas. He was giving investors a chance to buy surrounding land outright, or to purchase options to buy the land near the supposed resort. The 65 investors who purchased options lost every cent they invested—more than $8 million. Some investors, including Lucas’ father and uncle in the family real estate business, purchased land outright, believing the Disney story.

“There was not one grain of truth in Lucas’ presentations,” Velasquez said, “but his pitch was very elaborate, and it fooled a lot of people. He duped his own family.”

Lucas claimed to have letters between Disney and a management firm saying that the company had acquired enough land to make the deal happen. He included the letters—complete with forged Disney officials’ signatures—in his presentations to investors, along with detailed maps, concept plans, and images that were later discovered to be lifted from the Internet, some from Disney websites.

According to Lucas, Disney planned to make the big announcement about the resort at a Dallas Cowboys football game on Thanksgiving in 2006. When that didn’t happen, he told investors there were delays. “Then the announcement was going to be Super Bowl 2007, 2008. Then it was Fourth of July at the Beijing Olympic games,” Velasquez said. “He was just trying to keep investors and potential investors on the hook.”

With each delay, Lucas would sweeten the pot with some new bogus e-mail from a Disney executive or other bit of tantalizing information meant to persuade people the project was still on track. Eventually, investors became suspicious, and one made a complaint to the FBI.

Velasquez, who specializes in financial fraud cases, says the scheme went on for so long because Lucas was believable—and also because investors could not resist the temptation of making large returns on their money.

When confronted by investigators about his claims, Lucas falsely blamed the supposed Disney information he received on a man he met at a methadone rehab clinic, who had since died. In 2014, Lucas was indicted by a federal grand jury on seven counts of wire fraud and one count of lying to the FBI.

Last September, after a jury trial in which Lucas maintained his innocence but was found guilty on all charges, a judge sentenced the 35-year-old to 17.5 years in prison. “That was a stiff sentence for a white-collar crime,” Velasquez noted, “but he defrauded a lot of people and showed no remorse.”

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Street gangs migrate from drugs to white-collar crimes

The Van Dyke Money Gang in New York made off with more than $1.5 million this year — but it wasn’t in gunpoint robberies or drug running, it was a Western Union money order scheme. In New Jersey, 111 Neighborhood Crips used a machine to make dozens of fake gift cards for supermarkets, pharmacies and hardware stores.

In South Florida, gangs steal identities to file false tax returns.

These aren’t members of an organized Mafia or band of hackers. They’re street crews and gangs netting millions in white-collar schemes like identity theft and credit card fraud — in some instances, giving up the old ways of making an illicit income in exchange for easier crimes with shorter sentences.

“Why would you spend time on the street slinging crack when you can get 10 years under federal minimums when in reality you can just bone up on how to make six figures and when you get caught you’re doing six months?” said Al Pasqual, director of fraud security at the consulting firm Javelin Strategy and Research.

Law enforcement officials say they see increasingly more gangs relying on such crimes. This year, more than three dozen suspected crew members have been indicted in separate cases around the country. Grand larcenies in New York City account for 40 percent of all crime last year — compared with 28 percent in 2001. About 5 percent of Americans nationwide have experienced some kind of identity theft, with Florida leading the country in complaints.

New York Police Commissioner William Bratton wrote in an editorial in the city’s Daily News last week that white-collar crime was being committed by gang members “to an astonishing degree.”

Crews recruit bank account owners to help cash phony checks, they pay off crooked employees who skim credit card information using hand-held readers, and they buy identities online.

Pasqual said for some, it was a replacement for other crime. “For some it’s a supplement. They’re earning the money to grow the other side of their business, using white-collar crime to fund gun running. For a lot of them this becomes their day to day. They travel the country when they get really good at it.”

A task force created by federal officials in Florida has charged more than 400 people with causing more than $140 million in losses — including more than 60 charged three weeks ago — and officials say increasingly those arrested are gang members.

It’s an organized crime — but not “Organized Crime,” said Bill Maddalena, assistant special agent in charge of the white-collar branch of the Miami FBI office. “They’re very well organized. They have to recruit people to help steal devices, cash the checks.”

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Robber camouflaged as a security guard steals $500,000 from armored car

A robber camouflaged as a security guard hit the jackpot Friday outside Greektown Casino when he stole several bags of loot from an armored truck parked along the curb, making off with more than $500,000, according to Detroit police.

No one was hurt. No weapons were brandished, and no threats were made, police said.

“The FBI has taken the lead on the investigation because it seems to be of a suspicious nature,” Assistant Police Chief Steve Dolunt said without elaborating. “Detroit police are working with the FBI on this heist. We’re still looking at video to see how this person escaped.”

The FBI, through spokeswoman Jill Washburn, confirmed it is investigating the case, but Washburn declined further comment.

The heist happened at around 8 a.m. ET at the intersection of Beaubien Street and Monroe Avenue downtown, police said. A black male wearing a Loomis Armored security guard shirt approached the armored vehicle, took the bags of money out of the back and took off.

The driver of the armored vehicle thought that the thief was a co-worker because he was wearing a uniform shirt, said a source familiar with the case.

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