Eight young Brooklyn men allegedly stole $2million from recipients of COVID relief funds – then posted their ill gotten gains on social media.
Six of the eight defendants, ranging in age from 18 to 25, were charged in Brooklyn federal court with conspiracy to commit access device fraud in connection with a scheme to obtain millions of dollars in unemployment insurance.
The remaining two men, Armani Miller, 24, and Johan Santos, 19, are still at large.
The group stole personal information from those who were on the pandemic assistance program and funneled their money into their personal bank accounts, withdrawing the cash at banks in Brooklyn and Queens, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, stated.
They then posted pictures of themselves wearing designer clothes, posing in front of cars, and holding wads of cash and fanning themselves with the money.
The suspects were caught with more than 100 Key Bank debit cards in other peoples names that they used to make simultaneous withdrawals from Capital One Bank ATMs in eastern Queens, according to court documents.
They made withdrawals of more than $26,000 at a time, and used their own addresses and phone numbers to claim the fake unemployment benefits.
They were trying to steal a total of $5 million, prosecutors allege, and in September two of the suspects and an unidentified co-conspirator were captured on security footage making cash withdrawals at three different Capital One Banks.
‘There is never an excuse to knowingly commit fraud and steal from a system that was designed to help New Yorkers in a time of need,’ New York State Department of Labor Roberta Commissioner Reardon said in a statement.
‘However, it’s even more despicable when these thieves steal a lifeline from New Yorkers in the midst of a public health pandemic,’ she continued. ‘We have no tolerance for criminals, and if you break the law, you will be held accountable.’