Breaking News in the Industry: April 14, 2017

Embezzler still free after sentencing for stealing $1.4 million

A Bridgeport, Connecticut, man who set up a sham company to bilk a Stamford company he worked for out of $1.4 million avoided jail this week by paying $150,000 in restitution and promising to pay another $2,000 per month for the next five years. Jevene Wright, 33, was the beneficiary of a confluence of events, some within his control and others out, that won his freedom when many others have been sent to prison for embezzling much less.

It turns out Wright is a state witness in an ongoing murder trial. He was a defendant when the Stamford State’s Attorney’s office changed leadership and is apparently the victim of his former defense attorney who allegedly stole $100,000 from him. Last, but by no means least, Wright is a person who despite being convicted of a felony count of first-degree larceny is worth more out of jail to those he owes money to than in. It was those events that allowed Judge Richard Comerford on Monday to give him a suspended five-year jail sentence, five years’ probation and a bill for $2,000 per month for the duration of his probation.
Wright’s private defense attorney, Peter Karaylannis, of Bridgeport thanked Comerford for helping to resolve the case.

“He is happy to finally put this behind him. He is looking forward to moving on and making restitution in the case,” Karaylannis said of his client. As a condition of his probation, he also must cooperate with the State’s Attorneys Office in Bridgeport in their continuing effort to convict Jermaine Richards for murdering his girlfriend and getting rid of her remains in a wooded area of Trumbull in April 2013.  [For more: Stamford Advocate]

Traffic stop reveals massive credit card fraud

A routine traffic stop initiated by Livonia, Michigan, police last week resulted in the arrest of a man accused of possessing the personal account information of 20 people. James Slater, 21, of Detroit, was arrested last week and charged Monday with 20 counts of possessing a fraudulent financial transaction device and one charge of operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license.

Slater was arrested Friday afternoon after police say he was seen driving without a seat belt on, and they saw a cracked windshield and burnt-out light. Slater handed the officer a state identification card during the stop, telling them his license was suspended. He was asked to step out of the car and was arrested. After police went through his vehicle, they reportedly discovered a backpack that had a credit card embossing machine, a label maker, a blade from scissors, a credit card encoder and several hundred plastic cards, including some that appeared to have some fraudulent info on them. When police took the cards back to the station, they reportedly checked the strips on the more-than 200 cards and discovered 20 cards had fraudulent information and names on them. Slater is currently being held in Wayne County Jail on a $500,000 cash or surety bond.  [For more: Hometown Life]

Suspect who tried to assault Target employee captured

A Levittown, Pennsylvania, man wanted for shoplifting from a Bensalem Target then attempting to assault the asset protection specialist who tried to stop him has been captured, thanks to the public’s tips, police announced Thursday. An accomplice in the alleged shoplifting has also been arrested. On Wednesday, Bensalem Police shared information about the incident, which happened Friday, March 24. Once the photos of the suspects circulated, Bensalem Police received the tips needed to locate the suspects, identified as Angelo Lomonaco Jr., 33, and Christina Lomonaco, 38.

Police say the pair, from Levittown, loaded a shopping cart with merchandise and left the store without paying, police said. When the asset protection specialist attempted to stop them, Lomonaco Jr. became “aggressive” and attempted to assault him, police said. They fled the scene in a red minivan prior to police arrival. They are both charged with retail theft. Lomonaco Jr. is also charged with simple assault.  [For more: Levittown Patch]

Detroit pastor falls from grace, gets prison for fraud run from church

In a fall-from-grace story that landed a onetime aspiring Detroit preacher behind bars for  3½ years, the federal government  wrapped up a two-year-old fraud case this month involving four men who ran a $555,000 credit card fraud ring through a church and wreaked havoc on the lives of more than 100 people whose accounts were compromised. Among the schemers was Baker, who, according to prosecutors and his lawyer, slipped in his faith and broke the law to make money. He did this, prosecutors said, by using a credit card terminal at his church to swipe tens of thousands of dollars in bogus transactions that steered money into his own pockets.It was, as his lawyer put it, “a bad judgment call.”

The fourth and final defendant in the case was sentenced on Thursday. Terry Lewis, 41, of Detroit, who has amassed eight fraud convictions in two decades, was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the scheme: He obtained the fraudulent credit cards using stolen information, racked up charges on them, and gave cards to the others who did the same.According to prosecutors, Baker swiped at least $69,000 in fraudulent transactions through the credit card device at his church and split the proceeds with his associates. He also used fraudulently obtained credit cards at Target and Greektown Casino-Hotel, where he once tried to get money at a cash advance terminal using a fraudulent card but was denied. Amid all this, he also spent two stints in jail last year: once for 93 days for driving without a license; another time for 30 days for driving on a suspended license.

His co-defendant Darrus Gutyon, who at 29 has seven felony convictions, is serving a 39-month prison sentence. Eric Dismukes, 40, of Detroit, got the stiffest punishment: 75 months in prison. According to court documents, Chase Bank tipped off the federal government about the scheme in 2014 following its own investigation into identity theft and credit card fraud in Detroit. The scheme cost Chase Bank at least $555,000 in losses, including nearly $148,000 in ATM withdrawals using fraudulently obtained cards.  The US Attorney’s Office said the sentences are noteworthy for credit card fraud.  [For more: Detroit Free Press]

Giants deny Eli Manning involved in fake memorabilia scheme

The New York Giants say an email sent by Eli Manning to the team’s equipment manager in response to a request from his agent to supply game-worn helmets and jerseys to Steiner Sports is being taken out of context. The New York Post reported Thursday that Manning’s marketing agent sent a note to him in 2010 asking him for two game-used helmets and two game-used jerseys that would be turned over to Steiner.  Manning then asked the team’s equipment manager for “2 helmets that can pass as game used.”  The equipment manager responded he would comply with the request. The report, based on court papers obtained by two Post reporters, suggests Manning knowingly tried to pass non-game-used equipment off as the real deal.

Three collectors are suing the team, its ownership, equipment manager, Manning and others over what they say are items he bought that were not what they were purported to be.  Their attorney, Brian Brook, claims the Giants deleted emails that would show equipment manager Joe Skiba admitted to plaintiff Eric Inselberg that Manning had asked him to create “BS” versions of his game-worn gear so he could keep the real ones.

The Giants fired back Thursday in a statement sent to Sports Collectors Daily. Karen Kessler, a spokesperson for McCarter English, the team’s legal counsel wrote: “The email, taken out of context, was shared with the media by an unscrupulous memorabilia dealer and his counsel who for years has been seeking to leverage a big payday.  The email predates any litigation, and there was no legal obligation to store it on the Giants server. “Eli Manning is well known for his integrity and this is just the latest misguided attempt to defame his character.” According to the Post, Manning found the seven-year-old emails in the AOL account he was using and willingly turned them over last week as the court wrangling continued.  [For more: Sports Collectors Daily]

No gunshots fired in store burglary at Bellagio in Las Vegas

Following up on a report we brought you a few weeks ago, Las Vegas police now say there weren’t shots fired during a burglary at a high-end retail store inside the Bellagio Hotel and Casino. Authorities initially said Saturday that at least three people entered the store and one of them fired gunshots. But Vegas police and MGM Resorts International later said that there was no gunfire. The sound of glass breaking was misinterpreted, police said. No one was injured, and a suspect was taken into custody. Another initial report indicating an active shooter also proved to be false.  [For more: WHIO News]

Christian Dior sues more Chinese websites for selling fakes

Luxury fashion brand Christian Dior has slapped a multi-million-dollar lawsuit on a group of China-based websites for allegedly selling knock-off products. Filed in the US state of Illinois, the lawsuit covers the alleged counterfeiting of the Christian Dior Couture SA brand including clothing, jewellery, symbols and designs. According to court documents, Dior said its trademarks have “long been among the most famous and popular of their kind in the world…The Christian Dior trademarks have achieved tremendous fame and recognition, which has only added to the distinctiveness of the marks. As such, the goodwill associated with the Christian Dior trademarks is of incalculable and inestimable value to Dior.”

The fashion giant is seeking that all profits from the illegal enterprises be handed over or, alternatively, wants damages worth $2m for “each and every use” of its trademarks and $100,000 for each domain name using the brand. Besides damages, Dior is also seeking to permanently bar the websites from selling Dior-branded goods, and is requesting all domain names be handed over and any online marketplace or search engine be forced to halt business with the defendant sites. While details of the websites in question and the number being sued have not been revealed, Dior claimed they were based in China and were directly targeting the US consumer market.

An increasing number of fashion companies, including Calvin Klein, Chanel and Alexander Wang, are taking internet websites to court over the rise and ease of counterfeiting online. While the monetary damages are often not received as the defendants tend not to be located, the ability to remove the sites and claim domain names are small wins for the industry.  [For more: Securing Industry]

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