Breaking News in the Industry: March 1, 2018

NY man sentenced to 54 months in prison for role in $2.7M stolen identity refund fraud scheme

A Bronx, New York, man was sentenced today to 54 months in prison for his role in an extensive scheme to obtain money through fraudulently obtained refund checks issued by the U.S. Treasury, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced. Hector Urena previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez to an information charging him with one count each of conspiracy to steal government funds, theft of government funds, and aggravated identity theft (Count Three). Judge Vazquez imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court: Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) is a common type of fraud committed against the United States government that involves the use of stolen identities to commit tax refund fraud. The investigation revealed that Urena and others participated in a classic SIRF scheme. Urena’s conspirators obtained stolen identities to file fraudulent Form 1040s. He and his conspirators then used false and fraudulent documents to convert treasury checks into cash or other proceeds for their own profit at a check cashing business Urena owned. From August 2013 through May 2015, the scheme caused more than $2.7 million in losses to the U.S. Treasury. In addition to the prison term, Judge Vazquez sentenced Urena to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $2.78 million in restitution.  [Source: Department of Justice]

Shoplifting suspects on the run scale fence, land in police lot, custody [Viral Video]

Two shoplifting suspects running from police scaled a fence to get away from officers and landed in a secure parking lot of a police station… and in custody. Officials tell KTAR-FM that officers were called to a gas station for possible shoplifting at 6 p.m. Friday. Authorities say as officers arrived, the suspects, 28-year-old Marwan Al Ebadi and 29-year-old Salma Hourieh, took off running. The pair ran along the side of a building and jumped a fence, despite a sign for “Peoria Police” above the door. Security video shows Hourieh trying to hide under a bench before being placed in custody. Al Ebadi climbed back over the fence and was arrested on the street. It wasn’t immediately known if either is represented by a lawyer. [Source: Daily Local News]

Duo facing dozens of charges for counterfeit credit card fraud

Two men face a litany of charges that have been added onto a pile of existing charges after being found in possession of 83 counterfeit credit and gift cards almost two years ago. On March 9, 2016, Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office deputies pulled over a silver Chevrolet Malibu after a manager at Food City reported two men had tried to buy money orders with credit cards, according to court documents. The store had implemented a new policy that money orders were to be bought with cash only, because such fraudulent purchases had been made at local stores. The two men, 28-year-old Sir Cooley and 28-year-old Donyelle Cullins, left the store and got into the car, which was pulled over by law enforcement shortly after. An arrest affidavit states a K-9 unit was called to the scene because “credit card fraud of this nature is used frequently by narcotics traffickers” and the dog alerted on the car. Deputies found a bundle of 33 credit cards hidden in the car during a subsequent search, all in Cullins’ name, as well as another 50 in Cooley’s name.

Deputies also found a backpack containing 35 gift cards from various stores as well as Western Union money orders for $499. The cards, on their faces, appeared to have been issued to banks from across the country, but when investigators scanned them, they found the numbers were assigned to a different bank. Five of the numbers that came back were from Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union, some of which had been closed or had fraud alerts. All 83 cards were missing a holographic image on the back of the card and the signature and magnetic strips were missing built-in security features. Charges were filed against both men in Hamilton County General Sessions Court, but a grand jury also returned an indictment against them on more than 30 charges several months later. Both men are scheduled to appear in general sessions court and criminal court in March on dozens of charges including criminal simulation, theft of identity and theft of property.  [Source: Times Free Press]

Bomb threat at store was ruse so woman could commit retail fraud

A 23-year-old woman called in a bomb threat at a Target store so she could distract employees and commits a retail fraud, police said. Victoria Smith is now charged with making a false report of a bomb threat for the Nov. 28 phone call to the Gaines Township store in Michigan. Kent County sheriff’s deputies allege she called the store and said everyone had eight minutes to evacuate the store before a bomb would explode. Police evacuated the Target store and nearby Staples. Police searched the building and did not find any explosives. Investigators subsequently determined the origin of the bomb threat call. Police said she confessed to the scheme to commit a retail fraud, which is typically shoplifting. Smith was booked into the Kent County Jail on Monday, Feb. 26 and is held on a $10,000 bond. [Source: MLive]

‘Panty Bandit’ suspects arrested

Local police have arrested a mother and her two daughters who they say are responsible for stealing tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise from Victoria’s Secret and other retailers up and down the state of California. The thieves, dubbed by cops “the panty bandits,” would enter stores with a covered baby stroller and load it with undergarments, police said. Once the stroller was filled, two of them would distract staff while a third pushed the stroller out of the store without paying for the merchandise, according to law enforcement.  Between October 2017 and January 2018, Victoria’s Secret stores in Thousand Oaks and Oxnard were hit a total of five times, resulting in $15,000 in losses. Using footage taken from the heists, police tracked the crew to Castaic, where they had returned from a series of thefts in the San Francisco Bay Area, police said. On Feb. 12, three arrests were made. Los Angeles residents Maria Perez, 37; Melissa Partida, 19; and a 15-year-old juvenile were taken into custody in Castaic. They’ve been charged with commercial burglary and criminal conspiracy, according to court records. Perez is facing the additional charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. According to the company’s loss-prevention unit, the women are estimated to be responsible for $250,000 in thefts from Victoria’s Secret stores throughout California since 2016.  [Source: Thousand Oaks Acorn]

North Carolina bill aims to strengthen data breach protection law

It’s clear that data breaches are not going away anytime soon. North Carolina lawmakers are now taking action to improve the state’s Identity Theft Protection Act (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 75-60, et. seq.). In a bi-partisan move, North Carolina State Representative Jason Saine (R) and North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (D) joined forces to strengthen the current protections by co-authoring a bill titled, The Act to Strengthen Identity Theft Protections (the “Bill”). Although a draft of the Bill has not yet been released, Saine and Stein announced details of the Bill in January and plan to introduce it to the North Carolina General Assembly in May. While we can expect many changes, we know that the Bill will include the following increased protections:
Ransomware: The Bill would change the definition of “security breach” to include ransomware attacks. Currently, the law only applies to personally identifiable information (“PII”) that is acquired, which is not the case in ransomware attacks.
15-Day Notification: The Bill would change the time-frame in which covered entities must notify the North Carolina Attorney General and the affected individuals. The current law just requires notification without “unreasonable delay.”
Affirmative Duty:  The Bill would require any entity that owns or licenses PII to implement and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices to protect the PII from breach. The Bill states that entities who are victims of data breaches and did not maintain reasonable security practices and procedures will have committed a per violation of the North Carolina Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act (N.C. Gen. Stat. § 75-1.1, et. seq.). Each person affected by a data breach would constitute a separate violation.
Credit Report Freezes: The Bill would require consumer reporting agencies to create a process to add or lift credit reports for free at any time.
Control Over Credit Reports: Before using an individual’s credit report or score, an entity would need the individual’s permission and would have to disclose the reason for seeking the credit information. Likewise, the Bill would give the consumer the right to request the information from a credit reporting agency maintained on him or her, its source and information about where the information was disclosed.  [Source: Nixon Peabody]

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