DA Vance: Couple Indicted for Using Platinum Amex Cards Obtained in ID Theft Victims’ Names to Bankroll Lavish Lifestyle


April 5, 2016

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced the indictment of ALBERTO COMPANIONI, 31, and PATRICIA PEREZ-GONZALEZ, 26, for their roles in a credit card and identity theft scheme affecting victims across the U.S. and resulting in approximately $2 million in fraud. On March 18, 2016, the defendants were charged in a New York State Supreme Court indictment with Grand Larceny in the Second and Third Degrees, as well as Identity Theft in the First and Second Degrees, among other charges. [1] 

“The scope of the alleged fraud required the defendants and their co-conspirators to construct a network using stolen information to circumvent typical safeguards intended to prevent fraud, such as chip-enabled credit cards,” said District Attorney Vance. “Across the country, the defendants spared no expense while enjoying the use of credits cards opened in their victims’ names and inflicting damage on their credit. Credit card fraud of this type is becoming increasingly common, and I encourage individuals to monitor their credit reports and financial statements for any unauthorized or suspicious activity.”

“The indictment dismantles an identity theft ring that traveled the U.S. in luxury while stealing the identity of over 40 unsuspecting victims along the way, causing over $2 million in losses that are ultimately passed on to consumers,” said Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) New York. “We at HSI are committed to protecting the financial system of the United States by combating all types of financial crimes and the people that commit them.”

According to the indictment and statements made on the record in court, between 2014 and 2016, COMPANIONI and PEREZ-GONZALEZ used American Express credit cards with chip technology created with stolen personal information and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on vacations, designer merchandise, luxury vehicles, and other expenses as part of a scheme involving identity theft and credit card fraud affecting victims across the U.S. 

The authentic American Express accounts were opened online using personal information from primarily senior citizens who were unaware that their names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers had been stolen and used to open fraudulent accounts. Once an account was established, the American Express cards were shipped to various locations across the country—often vacant homes and properties—and intercepted by the defendants and other co-conspirators. This method of fraud allowed the defendants to run up significant lines of credit with no intention of paying off the charges, and in many cases, victims were unaware that there were large amounts of outstanding debt linked to their names and accounts.

Credit cards were opened in the names of more than 40 different victims, with over $2 million in charges and attempted charges by the defendants and co-conspirators, one of whom currently resides in South America, and is suspected of working with the defendants to orchestrate the scheme.

In the case of COMPANIONI and PEREZ-GONZALEZ, the defendants used the credit cards to pay for trips to New York, California, Hawaii, and other destinations, where they made additional charges for expensive meals, evenings at popular clubs, and shopping sprees at Hermès, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, and other designer stores. The credit cards were also used to purchase high-end electronic devices and products, usually from Apple stores, to resell to international buyers overseas. PEREZ-GONZALEZ also used the credit cards to purchase wholesale merchandise that she resold on her retail clothing website, “Le Fashion Wheels.”

Search warrants executed at multiple properties associated with the defendants in Miami revealed possession of dozens of credit cards in victims’ names, credit reports in various names, forged identification and licenses, a credit card encoder, blank credit cards, more than ten phones labeled with victims’ names, and merchandise purchased with the fraudulent American Express cards, including a Rolex watch, racing bikes, ski gear, Chanel bags, and other designer clothing and accessories.

Assistant District Attorney Beth Potashnick is handling the ongoing investigation and prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Brenda Fischer, Chief of the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau, and Executive Assistant District Attorney David Szuchman, Chief of the Investigation Division. Additional assistance with the investigation was provided by Cybercrime Analyst Jonathan Simmons and former Cybercrime Analyst Vitali Kremez. 

District Attorney Vance also thanked the following agencies and individuals for their assistance and cooperation with the investigation: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and in particular, Special Agent Michael MacDonald; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; Miami-Dade Police Department; and American Express, and in particular, Fraud Investigator James Torrellas.

[1] The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. All factual recitations are derived from documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court.

Defendant Information:

ALBERTO COMPANIONI, D.O.B. 6/1/1984
Miami, FL

Charged:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 2 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 3 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 4 counts
  • Identity Theft in the Second Degree, a class E felony, 2 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Petit Larceny, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count

PATRICIA PEREZ-GONZALEZ, D.O.B. 7/28/1989
Miami, FL

Charged:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 2 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 3 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 4 counts
  • Identity Theft in the Second Degree, a class E felony, 2 counts
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Petit Larceny, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count

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