BALTIMORE (May 27, 2016)—Shivani Patel, age 30, of Reisterstown, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft arising from a scheme to use stolen credit information of more than 200 victims to defraud financial institutions.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Andre R. Watson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); and Special Agent in Charge Brian Murphy of the United States Secret Service—Baltimore Field Office.
According to her plea agreement and court documents, from at least June to December 18, 2013, Patel conspired with Tariq Hicks, her then boyfriend Eddie Carey and others to defraud financial institutions by accessing stolen credit card and debit card accounts belonging to real people and using counterfeit cards encoded with the stolen account information to make unauthorized purchases.
Hicks purchased the stolen account information over the internet. Patel and Hicks used a computer and an electronic device called a "reader-writer" to encode the stolen credit and debit card information onto existing credit cards, gift cards, or other similar cards. These cards were sold or distributed to co-conspirators, such as Carey and Ishia Cason, who used them and provided the bulk of the proceeds to Hicks. Patel often delivered cards to the individuals who were conducting transactions, called "strikers." Patel also recruited workers.
Hicks also purchased or obtained over the internet "credit profiles" containing the identity information of victims. He then obtained full credit reports for these victims. Hicks gave this information to Patel and others, who went into stores where the victims had existing credit accounts, with the victim's personal identity information so that they could "authenticate" themselves as the victim. Patel, Carey, Cason and others would then make purchases on the existing accounts (called "account takeover").
In addition, Hicks used the credit reports to identify stores at which a victim did not have an account, and sent Patel, Carey, Cason and others into those stores with the same personal identity information. Patel and the co-conspirators would apply for new credit accounts in the victim's identity, and then use that "instant credit" to make purchases before the victim learned of the account.
For all of these schemes, Hicks obtained fraudulent drivers' licenses which bore the information of the victim, but the photograph of a co-conspirator. Patel had many such identifications which bore her photo but the identity information of victims. Often Hicks or Patel would provide a cheat sheet with the necessary personal identity and account information so that a co-conspirator would have ready and covert access to the information as needed. The co-conspirators could then use the counterfeit license to establish their identity as the victim.
Patel and others instructed those using the cards and information to travel to other states to engage in the fraud. Patel and Carey traveled to conduct account takeovers, instant credit fraud and other fraudulent transactions. Co-conspirators frequently traveled north to Pennsylvania and south as far as Georgia to engage in fraud, as well as the states that lie between Baltimore and Atlanta, including North and South Carolina, West Virginia, and Virginia.
On December 18, 2013, a search warrant was executed at Patel's residence, where she lived with Hicks and Carey. A complete set up for the fraud scheme was on the dining table, including a computer with the credit profiles and credit reports, a reader/writer device, credit cards in various states of manufacture, money gram receipts for payments for the stolen credit card numbers and profiles, lists of personal identity information and "cheat sheets." Also recovered were dozens of credit cards bearing victims' names and accounts, as well as dozens of fraudulent identification to match the credit cards, all bearing the information of the victims but the photographs of co-conspirators.
In a basement space shared by Patel and Carey were more lists of victim information and a receipt for a storage locker rented to "Aishwarya Gupta," a fictitious identity that Patel created as an alter ego and used to obtain a $42,073.22 loan for the purchase of a 2010 BMW 528XI. There was also a small notebook in Patel's handwriting which numerous personal identity information; notations as to money grams which had to be sent to various individuals in Kiev and the amounts owed; notations as to what merchandise was ordered and delivered to customers of the scheme at what price; notations as to how much was owed to workers in the scheme, and a reminder to pay the storage locker fee.
A search warrant was executed on the storage unit and a duplicate "mill" was located, including an embosser to manufacture embossed credit cards, and boxes containing hundreds of blank plastic cards ready for counterfeiting, including white, gold, silver and black cards. There were also over 150 cards in various states of manufacture.
Over 450 compromised accounts were compiled from the evidence seized from the residence and storage locker, although most had not yet been used in the scheme. There were over 200 victims, including businesses and financial institutions which sustained an actual loss and victims who had their identities compromised in the conspiracy. Based on the individual victims and credit accounts which were recovered from the search warrant, actual losses associated with the scheme are $61,030.78. As part of her plea agreement, Patel will be required to pay restitution in the full amount of the victims' losses.
Patel faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in for the bank fraud conspiracy, and a mandatory two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, for aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar scheduled sentencing for September 30, 2016 at 3:00 p.m.
Tariq Hicks, age 48, of Owings Mills, Maryland, pleaded guilty on May 2, 2016; and Eddie Carey, age 32; and Ishia Biff Cason, age 36, both of Baltimore, pleaded guilty on May 5, 2016, to bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. Judge Bredar scheduled sentencing for Hicks on June 10, 2016 at 9:30 a.m.; for Carey on August 18, 2016 and for Cason on August 5, 2016, both at 2:00 p.m.
The Maryland Identity Theft Working Group has been working since 2006 to foster cooperation among local, state, federal, and institutional fraud investigators and to promote effective prosecution of identity theft schemes by both state and federal prosecutors. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Working Group, demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement agencies to work with financial institutions and businesses to address identity fraud, identify those who compromise personal identity information, and protect citizens from identity theft.
Today's announcement is part of the efforts undertaken in connection with the President's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys' offices, and state and local partners, it's the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended HSI Baltimore and the U.S. Secret Service for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamera L. Fine, who is prosecuting the case.