Four people were charged on May 30 in connection with a scheme to defraud banks by using stolen and altered identities to fraudulently obtain credit cards, and then using those cards to make more than $2.5 million in charges that were never repaid.
Shahid Akhtar, 42, of Linden; Tassadiq Hussain, 70, of Sayreville; Asif Ali, 39, of Carteret; and Mohammad Mushtaq, 54, of Valley Stream, New York, are each charged by complaint with one count of conspiring to defraud financial institutions, according to information provided by U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
The defendants were scheduled to appear in the afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, the defendants allegedly engaged in a scheme to use stolen and altered identities to obtain credit cards from financial institutions and then use those credit cards to make purchases that they had no intention to repay, leaving the financial institutions to bear the losses, according to the statement.
The defendants and their conspirators allegedly used the personally identifying information of actual people, including dates of birth, drivers’ license numbers, and Social Security numbers, to create “synthetic identities,” sometimes by pairing the name and Social Security number of actual person with a fictitious birthdate, and sometimes by pairing the person’s Social Security number with a fictitious name and birthdate, according to the statement. They often used the name and Social Security number of a minor and altered the birthdate to make the identity appear to be that of an adult.
The defendants and their conspirators then allegedly used the stolen and synthetic identities to obtain lines of credit, primarily through opening credit card accounts at financial institutions. These fraud cards were maintained in good standing with the financial institutions long enough to establish the creditworthiness of the stolen and synthetic identities, officials claim. The defendants and their conspirators then “busted out” the fraud cards by making large purchases and never repaying the debts, the charges allege.
The defendants and their conspirators also allegedly incorporated and registered in various states numerous purported companies that did little or no legitimate business. according to the statement. The sham companies typically reported mailing addresses that were not brick-and-mortar business locations but were in fact “virtual mailboxes” offered by a company that provides mail receiving and forwarding services, as well as virtual office space, for a fee, according to the statement. The defendants and their conspirators allegedly used these sham companies to make hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of charges to the fraud cards, which were then deposited in bank accounts opened in the sham companies’ names. The defendants and their conspirators then withdrew these funds in cash, according to the allegations.
The defendants and their conspirators routinely used “drop addresses” in New Jersey, New York and elsewhere as the purported mailing addresses for the fraud cards and the sham companies, according to the statement. These drop addresses were typically not residential locations, but rather mailboxes offered for lease for the receipt of mail by a commercial package delivery company. In most cases, the defendants and their conspirators allegedly rented these mailboxes using fraudulent identification documents created using stolen and altered identities. The drop addresses were then maintained for the purpose of receiving mail sent in connection with the fraud cards and the sham companies, according to the statement.
The charge of conspiring to defraud financial institutions carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.