Billionaire Ira Rennert Among Those Victimized In Theft Ring Targeting Donors Of UJA-Federation
Fifty-five gang members and others have been busted for running a $2 million identity theft ring that targeted high-profile donors who'd given to a Jewish charity, prosecutors announced today.
The donors who were victimized included billionaire investor Ira Rennert and his wife and former AIG CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg.
"This is an organized identity theft and financial crime ring that relied on insiders" who had jobs that involved handling checks at places ranging from a luxury auto dealership to the UJA-Federation of New York, a prominent Jewish charity, Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Beth Potashnick said.
The DA's office said that among the 55 people arrested were members of the Bloods, Crips and Outlaws were arraigned after taking part in a check scam.
Prosecutors said a worker at the UJA, which has offices in Midtown, would photocopy checks the charity received from donors such as Rennert and Greenberg's Starr Foundation, which he chaired.
The employee, Tracey Nelson, who processed checks given to the UJA-Federation charity for three years, allegedly sold the checks to the gang members, who then assumed the identities of those who had donated money.
Nelson, who openly wept before a judge, was ordered her held without bail at her arraignment today on grand larceny and other charges. She pleaded not guilty.
UJA-Federation said it had worked with authorities and fired Nelson. The charity said no donors suffered financial losses.
In a statement, the UJA-Federation said, "The District Attorney’s office has advised us that no donor suffered any financial losses and that banks and credit card companies were targeted by and were the victims of this crime ring. In addition, contrary to some press reports, major philanthropists were not targeted by the ring.
"UJA-Federation has fully cooperated with law enforcement’s investigation into this matter, providing all information and materials that have been requested, and will continue to do so until this matter is closed."
As part of the same ID theft ring, prosecutors said they had also arrested three JP Morgan Chase tellers, a worker at TD Bank and a US postal worker.
The accomplices would forge checks, deposit them in other people's bank accounts and withdraw the money as soon as it cleared, authorities said.
Aided by the tellers, the ring sometimes also made phone and wire transfers from the victims' accounts and got credit cards in their names, prosecutors said.
The ring is said to have targeted 1,000 people.