DA Vance, U.S. Secret Service, Homeland Security Investigations Announce Indictment of Identity Theft Ring That Used Stolen Information to Purchase Hundreds of Designers Bags and Shoes From Saks Fifth Avenue


October 6, 2014

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DA VANCE, U.S. SECRET SERVICE, HOMELAND SECURITY INVESTIGATIONS ANNOUNCE INDICTMENT OF IDENTITY THEFT RING THAT USED STOLEN INFORMATION TO PURCHASE HUNDREDS OF DESIGNERS BAGS AND SHOES FROM  SAKS FIFTH AVENUE

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced the indictment of TAMARA WILLIAMS, 36, KRISS ROCKSON, 45, JASON CHANCE, 25, ALAIA HARRISON, 20, and MICHAEL KNIGHT-WILLIAMS, 44, for their part in a scheme that used stolen personal identifying information from Saks Fifth Avenue customers to purchase approximately $400,000 in luxury goods from that store’s Midtown flagship store for later resale on the black market. The defendants are charged in a 66-count indictment with Grand Larceny, Attempted Grand Larceny, Scheme to Defraud, Identity Theft, Attempted Identity Theft, Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, and Unlawful Possession of Personal Identification Information. 

Today’s announcement is the result of a joint investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau, the United States Secret Service, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New York field office.

“This identity theft ring was allegedly able to walk away with hundreds of pairs of shoes and bags due to the help of store employees, who are charged with making the fraudulent sales possible,” said District Attorney Vance. “Time after time, we see insiders at companies enabling theft to occur. In just the past few years, prosecutors in my Office’s Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau have convicted insiders working at fast-food chains, high-end steakhouses, retail stores, parking garages, non-profits, universities, hospitals, banks, and even nursing homes.”

Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service New York Field Office Robert J. Sica said: “The indictment of these five individuals is yet another example of how the Secret Service continues to successfully combat data theft and financial crimes. The Secret Service utilized state-of-the-art investigative techniques to dismantle this criminal network.  Our success in this case and other similar investigations is the result of the extraordinary work of our investigators and our close cooperation with our network of law enforcement partners.”

Special Agent in Charge of HSI New York James T. Hayes, Jr., said: “American Consumers have never been at greater risk of commercial retail fraud and theft than they are today. These arrests dismantle a criminal organization that sought to use the very technology that has made the United States a global economic power to line their pockets at the expense of unwitting consumers and retail corporations. The HSI New York field office will continue to play a leading role in combating all types of financial crimes, and remain closely aligned with the U.S. Secret Service and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Cyber Crime and Identify Theft Bureau.”

According to documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court, between April and August of this year, the alleged ringleader of this scheme, WILLIAMS, is accused of providing the personal identifying information, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth, of more than 20 Saks Fifth Avenue credit card account holders to at least four sales associates at the department store: ROCKSON, CHANCE, HARRISON, and KNIGHT-WILLIAMS. The employees would then use the stolen information to purchase luxury goods that WILLIAMS pre-selected from designer brands, including Chanel, Valentino, Christian Louboutin, Ferragamo, Balmain, YSL, Gucci, Giuseppe Zanotti, Kate Spade, Louis Vuitton, and Givenchy. 

In some cases, the sales associates would then provide the fraudulently purchased merchandise to a group of “shoppers,” who were allegedly recruited by WILLIAMS to impersonate Saks accountholders. Three separately charged shoppers, who have previously been arraigned in Criminal Court, are accused of receiving merchandise that was pre-purchased by the sales associates, and then meeting WILLIAMS at designated places, such as hair salons and gas stations in Queens, to hand-off the stolen merchandise, which was then resold on the black market.

As part of the scheme, the shoppers were also sometimes instructed to return certain stolen property to Saks Fifth Avenue in exchange for store gift cards, which were then resold for profit or used as payment for the shoppers’ services.

In all, this identity theft ring is believed to be responsible for more than $400,000 in fraudulent purchases over the course of 91 distinct transactions. The evidence reveals that no physical credit card was ever presented; instead, the stolen credit card information was manually entered into the system by the sales associates who processed the transactions. In some instances, no customer was present at the checkout counter during the purchase. 

Assistant District Attorney Sophi Jacobs is handling the prosecution of the case, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Jeremy Glickman and Tracy Conn, Deputy Chiefs of the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau, Brenda Fischer, Chief of the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau, and Executive Assistant District Attorney David Szuchman, Chief of the Investigation Division. Cybercrime Analyst Vitali Kremez; Investigators Daniel Murphy, Michelle Moy, and Mariangela Perrotta; Supervising Investigators Jonathan Reid and Robert Muldoon; Senior Investigators Richard Breece and Reginald Barometre; and Detective Marisa Valle-Zarakas assisted with the investigation.

District Attorney Vance thanked the United States Secret Service, particularly Special Agent Matthew Wagner, Access Device Fraud Squad; HSI, particularly Special Agent Todd Kowalski, Violent Gang Unit; and Saks Fifth Avenue, for their assistance with the investigation. 

[1] The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is 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:

TAMARA WILLIAMS, D.O.B. 7/2/1977
Queens, NY

Charges:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 1 count
  • Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 1 count
  • Attempted Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 1 count
  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 2 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 46 counts
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Attempted Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Unlawful Possession of Personal Identification Information in the Third Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 2 counts

KRISS ROCKSON, D.O.B. 6/16/1968
Queens, NY

Charges:

  • Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 1 counts
  • Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Second Degree, a class C felony, 1 count
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 19 counts
  • Attempted Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, a class D felony, 1 count
  • Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 2 counts
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, 2 counts
  • Unlawful Possession of Personal Identification Information in the Third Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 2 counts

JASON CHANCE, D.O.B. 1/4/1989
Valley Stream, NY

Charges:

  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 3 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 4 counts
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Fifth Degree, a class A misdemeanor, 1 count

ALAIA HARRISON, D.O.B. 9/29/1993
Queens, NY

Charges:

  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 3 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 1 count
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count
  • Attempted Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

MICHAEL KNIGHT-WILLIAMS, 6/14/1970
Queens, NY

Charges:

  • Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 3 counts
  • Identity Theft in the First Degree, a class D felony, 1 count
  • Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Third Degree, a class D felony, 1 count
  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, 1 count

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