By RYAN WICKER
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the sentencing of ringleader Tyrone “Reece” Lee, 29, for running an identity-theft ring that stole over $457,000 from customers of Wachovia Bank (now Wells Fargo) in Newburgh, N.Y. In February, following a trial in Orange County Court, the jury convicted Lee of all 15 Counts charged, including Grand Larceny and Identity Theft. Lee, who is already serving a sentence of 4 ½ to 9 years in prison for operating a similar identity-theft scheme in Westchester County, will now serve an aggregate of 10-20 years in state prison following his sentencing in front of the Honorable Nicholas DeRosa in Orange County.
“Today’s sentencing sends a clear message: If you steal New Yorkers’ personal financial information, you will be held accountable,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We will remain vigilant in cracking down on identify theft rings as fraudsters continue to innovate and look for new ways to scam consumers.”
During the course of trial, the prosecutors presented evidence that from June 2010 to August 2011, Lee was the leader of a bank fraud ring that stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the accounts of Wachovia Bank customers. The evidence at trial included testimony by Lee’s accomplice, Nadia Figueroa, recorded telephone calls of Lee impersonating a Wachovia customer, and a text message exchanged between Lee and Figueroa comparing the fraud detection procedures of Wachovia to that of Chase Bank.
The evidence at trial showed that Lee initiated his scheme by recruiting his girlfriend, Figueroa, to obtain a position as a bank teller at a Wachovia branch located at 41 North Plank Road in Newburgh, New York. Once she was hired at the Newburgh branch, Lee directed Figueroa on how and what customer data to steal, instructing her to search for common names and to copy specific information including account numbers, social security numbers and signature cards. Many of the accounts victimized were selected by a practice known as “name surfing,” wherein Figueroa illegally searched Wachovia’s customer database for common names, states of residence, and high account balances.
Figueroa testified that at Lee’s direction, during the approximately seven weeks of her employment, Figueroa accessed the personal identification information of over 200 Wachovia bank account holders without conducting any financial transactions regarding those accounts. Figueroa then gave this information to Lee, who in turn enlisted other co-conspirators to withdraw funds from the compromised accounts. Lee obtained fraudulent driver’s licenses containing the pictures of other co-conspirators and the names of compromised bank account holders, which were then used at the out-of-state bank branches to convince bank tellers to process fraudulent withdraws from the accounts of customers.
Using the stolen account information and forged licenses, Lee withdrew funds from 77 customer accounts at branches located in Nassau County and New York City, as well as in Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. In total, Lee and his co-conspirators stole approximately $457,980 from Wachovia between July 2010 and August 2011.
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