Rockland County District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe, together with United States Postal Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge James T. Hayes, Jr., on Wednesday announced the arrests of 22 defendants for allegedly participating in a conspiracy to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars by forging U.S. Postal Service money orders.
“These arrests are a good example of what happens when federal, state and local law enforcement agencies work together to target criminal activities in Rockland County,” said District Attorney Zugibe. “Members of our highly skilled Special Investigations Unit will continue to aggressively investigate fraudulent financial schemes that threaten the integrity of our banking system and are often a gateway to further criminality.”
Postal Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett said, “Postal inspectors and our law enforcement partners will vigorously investigate, arrest and prosecute anyone who attacks the financial integrity of the US Postal Service Money Order System.”
“Today’s arrests deal a critical blow to the operational capacity of the M-Block Crew gang, a set of the Bloods Gang. HSI financial crimes investigators identified and put an end to this complicated fraud and theft scheme that cost New York banks nearly a half million dollars,” said James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of HSI in New York. “HSI will continue to use every tool at our disposal to combat financial crime that supports violent activity and to rid our neighborhoods of these dangerous gangs.”
According to the charges, those arrested devised schemes to defraud more than a dozen banks by purchasing U.S. Postal Money Orders in small denominations, usually $1 to $3, and altering them to appear as larger denominations, typically from $850 to $1,000 per money order.
In other instances, the defendants are accused of passing bad checks. District Attorney Zugibe said that, according to the criminal complaints, some defendants visited banks in Rockland County and Bergen County, New Jersey, depositing the fraudulent money orders or checks into active bank accounts, usually at ATM machines. Most of the transactions allegedly occurred at night.
According to documents filed in court, the money was then withdrawn or attempted to be withdrawn a short time later before the banks could learn that the money orders or checks were fraudulent. In many instances the bank accounts were opened and used solely for the purpose of conducting these thefts.
More than $400,000 in fraudulently altered money orders and bad checks have been identified from 14 financial institutions in Rockland and Bergen counties, including TD Bank, Wells Fargo, Sterling National Bank (formerly Provident), First Niagara, HSBC, People’s United, Bank of America, Capital One, JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Key Bank, M & T Bank, Trustco Bank, and American Express. Each of the financial institutions have been fully cooperative during the investigation.
Zugibe said this particular scheme is likely associated with a multimillion dollar trend in money order fraud that is sweeping the nation.
The defendants are variously charged with numerous counts of felony grand larceny, criminal possession of forged instruments and criminal facilitation of bank fraud. Several of the defendants are alleged members of a faction of the Bloods street gang based in Rockland County.
District Attorney Zugibe thanked the United States Department of Homeland Security-Homeland Security Investigations, ICE/ESU, U.S. Postal Inspections Service, U.S. Marshals, New York State Police, Rockland County Sheriff’s Department, the Rockland County R.E.A.C.T. Team, Village of Spring Valley Police Department, Town of Clarkstown Police Department, Suffern Police Department, Town of Haverstraw Police Department, Town of Orangetown Police Department and the Town of Stony Point Police Department for their assistance in the case.
NAME: Juanito Joseph, DOB: 6/6/1985
ADDRESS: 20 Monsey Blvd., Apt. F, Monsey, NY 10952
CHARGES: Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument 1st Degree (two counts), Grand Larceny 3rd degree, Criminal Facilitation 4th degree
NAME: youthful offender female, Spring Valley, NY 10977
CHARGES: Grand Larceny 3rd Degree, Criminal Facilitation 4th Degree
NAME: Kiandra Lamarre, DOB: 5/28/1990
ADDRESS: 112 Edison Court, Apt. G, Monsey, NY 10952
CHARGES: Grand Larceny 3rd degree, Criminal Facilitation 4th degree
NAME: (YOUTHFUL OFFENDER)
CHARGES: Attempted Grand Larceny 4th degree
NAME: (YOUTHFUL OFFENDER)
CHARGES: Attempted Grand Larceny 3rd degree, Criminal Facilitation 4th degree