County Police Break Up Extensive Retail Identity Theft Operation–CHARGE 5

Investigation into identity theft and credit card fraud is continuing

WPCNR POLICE GAZETTE. From The Westchester County Police. August 15, 2019 UPDATED 1:15 PM EDT:

Westchester County Police arrested five persons Wednesday and charged them with stealing thousands of dollars in merchandise from TJ Maxx and other retail stores in recent months. Investigators estimate the loss of goods to be valued at more than $500,000.

Kieran O’Leary, Westchester County Police Public Information Officer told WPCNR the operation was first noticed by the TJ Maax management when they noticed large purchases being made on newly opened accounts that used up the credit line within a very short time of purchase.

TJ Maxx notified the Westchester County Police.

O’Leary said the fraudulent purchases were made at different locations in Westchester, Long Island and New York City. The County Identify Theft unit started the investigation five months ago, and is looking into where the merchandise was purchased from to effect returns. O’Leary said the current spate of thefts seems to be limited to the five suspects. 

The five suspects are accused of engaging in identity theft and credit card fraud to commit multiple larcenies over the past five months. The suspects obtained numerous credit cards through fraudulent means and used the cards to purchase merchandise before the fraudulent cards were discovered and shut down.

The ring would purchase several thousand dollars in merchandise a day, including high-end pocketbooks and clothing, televisions and furniture, the investigation revealed.

The suspects are preliminarily charged with multiple counts of Grand Larceny and other offenses. The investigation into the scheme is continuing and additional charges are anticipated.

Westchester County Police detectives, assisted by members of the County Police Special Response Team and investigators from the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, executed search warrants Wednesday at one residence in Mount Vernon, three in the Bronx and one in Queens. The suspects were taken into custody at those locations and numerous items of stolen property, valued at more than $100,000, were seized.

Several vans and a U-Haul truck were needed to haul away the seized stolen goods, and a complete inventory of the recovered items is still under way. In addition, devices used to make fraudulent credit cards and fraudulent identification were also seized.

“I would like to commend the General Investigations Unit for the painstaking investigation it conducted in recent months to identify these thieves and bring them to justice,” Commissioner Thomas A. Gleason said. “I am grateful to the prosecutors and investigators at the Westchester District Attorney’s Office for their invaluable assistance throughout this lengthy and complex investigation.”

Gleason also thanked TJX Companies, the parent company of TJ Maxx, for its assistance and cooperation during the investigation.

This was a lucrative criminal enterprise that victimized numerous retail establishments in Westchester and beyond,” Gleason said.  “We have evidence that this scheme was also utilized outside of Westchester and we will be sharing information and evidence with other jurisdictions.”

“This was an important collaborative effort to stop the kind of theft that begins by stealing identities of innocent victims and then becomes theft of property. We commend Westchester County Police investigators in conjunction with the team from TJX Companies for pursuing these criminals,” said Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. “Our specialized Identity Theft Unit will see that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Arrested in Mount Vernon were Hassan Miller, 46, of Chester Street, Mount Vernon, and Dawn Anderson, 48, of East 143rd Street, Bronx. They were each charged with Criminal Possession of Stolen Property 2nd Degree, three counts of Criminal Possession of a Forgery Device and 76 counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument, felonies.

Miller and Anderson were arraigned Wednesday in Mount Vernon City Court and were remanded to the Westchester County Jail in Valhalla. The remaining three suspects were held overnight at county police headquarters in Hawthorne and will be arraigned today in Yonkers City Court. They are:

  • Stanley Awala, 45, of 200th Street, St. Albans, Queens, charged with Grand Larceny 4th Degree and Identity Theft 2nd Degree;
  • Asanimo Riesa, 37, of East 146th Street, Bronx, charged with Grand Larceny 3rd Degree and 4th Degree and Identity Theft 2nd Degree;
  • Peter Onogwu, 63, of North Oak Drive, Bronx, charged with Grand Larceny 4th Degree and Identity Theft 2nd Degree.

The case is being prosecuted by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Investigations Division Identity Theft Unit.

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