NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Ten people have been indicted in an ID theft conspiracy that included United States Postal Service mail carriers and netted more than $750,000, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced Wednesday.
The alleged crimes were committed between January 2017 and August 2019, with the accused ringleader, 37-year-old Michael Richards, charged with recruiting multiple mail carriers to steal credit cards from the mail they delivered in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Burke, Virginia.
Those mail carriers were identified as 36-year-old Kennisha Murrell, 31-year-old Curquan Highsmith, 31-year-old Bruce Bienvenu, and 25-year-old Kenneth Freeman.
Richards allegedly paid the mail carriers different amounts depending on how well the cards they stole performed.
Vance said members of the conspiracy used online databases to learn personal identifying information about the cardholders in order to activate the cards and purchase high-end goods at luxury retailers.
The defendants are charged with fourth-degree conspiracy, three counts of second-degree grand larceny and other related charges.
"This holiday season, we know that identity thieves will be targeting not just our inboxes, but our mailboxes," Vance said. "So we're putting scammers on notice. The Manhattan D.A.'s Office has the expertise, resources, and partnerships in cybercrime and identity theft to find you and hold you accountable. We will continue to work hand-in-hand with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the NYPD to stamp out fraud and protect the integrity of a service relied upon by millions of New Yorkers."
As alleged, between January 2017 and August 2019, the defendants stole more than $750,000 from financial institutions by removing more than 1,000 customer credit cards from the mail and using them to purchase high-end retail items.
Authorities identified 38-year-old Shamar Haughton, who they say acted as a courier, retrieving stolen mail containing credit cards from the carriers.
Justin Forgenie, 33, is accused of providing Richards with the personal identifying information of the stolen credit cardholders that he obtained by searching cardholder names in subscription databases like LexisNexis and Transunion.
Tatiana Smith, 34, allegedly used the stolen credit cards and personal identifying information to make retail purchases at Richards' direction, including at Hermes, Bloomingdale's, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Neiman Marcus, Best Buy, and Macy's.
They say Richards instructed Smith to purchase items that could easily be resold or returned for store credit that was then sold for cash, while 34-year-old Suzana Mikhaylova and 39-year-old Daniel Mikhylova made unauthorized transactions at the jewelry store they owned, The Watch Standard, by processing fictitious transactions using the store's merchant card processing accounts.
"Today's indictment alleges an elaborate, national fraud scheme that betrayed our mail delivery system to prey on innocent victims," NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said. "But fortunately, our NYPD investigators, law enforcement partners and prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney's office, worked in tandem to dismantle this enterprise and bring these defendants to justice."
Vance said the fraud was uncovered in February 2019 when a credit card company noticed a pattern of new cards not reaching their owners and reached out to the United States Postal Inspection Service for assistance.
Submit a News Tip