Breaking: NYC “Cyber-Crime” Ring Busted for Pickpocketing Millions from JP Morgan

According to a presser hot off the wires a group of six “cyber thieves” have been indicted for stealing more than $1 million from 80 different victims with accounts at JP Morgan Chase.

The criminals pickpocketed people on the street and bribed JP Morgan employees to give them data. Apparently they also stole information from the banks computer system, although its not made clear how this was accomplished.

This brings us back to the question of what is cyber-crime in an age where almost all bank transactions involve a digital interface. It sounds from this press release like most of the criminal activity was good old fashioned robbery and bribery.

Its a fine distinction, but one worth drawing, as we pointed out with our piece about why the News of the World Scandal involves no actual “hacking”.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., today announced a 148-count indictment of six members of a large-scale identity theft and cybercrime ring for stealing more than $1 million from J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, compromising at least 80 victims’ accounts at various bank branches.[1]

“Over the course of two years, accused criminals and corrupt bank employees colluded to defraud J.P. Morgan Chase and withdraw more than $1 million from the bank accounts of unwitting victims,” said District Attorney Vance. “The ring both pickpocketed these victims on the street, and colluded with the bank employees, to steal personal identification that in turn enabled the criminal organization to withdraw significant funds from bank branches from New York to Texas and Michigan. I would like to thank our Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau and J.P. Morgan Chase Bank for working together to ensure that this identity theft ring was brought to justice.”

The defendants are RICHARD DAMES, a/k/a “G,” a/k/a “GK,” a/k/a “GEOVANNI KASANOVA,” 33; JAMALUDDIN ALMAHDI, a/k/a “RICK,” 66; WAYNE MITCHELL, a/k/a “WAYNE-O,” 42; RICKY MCCANTS, 30; MAKILA WILLIAMS, 25; and KIA WYLIE, 30. They have been indicted on multiple felony charges, including Grand Larceny in the First Degree, Identity Theft in the First and Second Degrees, and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree.  In addition, MCCANTS and WYLIE have been indicted on numerous counts of Computer Trespass.  The crimes charged in the indictment occurred between February 17, 2009, and February 4, 2011.

According to documents filed in court, the identity theft ring is alleged to have operated as follows:

Members of the ring either pickpocketed victims or worked with J.P. Morgan Chase Bank employees whom they paid to obtain victim personal identifying information by infiltrating the bank’s computer system. In some cases, MITCHELL and his accomplices used some of the stolen property of victims who were pickpocketed to commit fraud weeks or months after the victim had been pickpocketed. In other instances, Chase Bank employees MCCANTS, WILLIAMS, WYLIE, and previously charged defendant Jon Emerenciano stole accountholder information—such as names, addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth, and account numbers—from the bank’s computer system and sold that information to DAMES and his co-conspirators. DAMES then provided the information to the members of the ring who would carry out the fraudulent bank transactions. The corrupt employees also copied accountholders’ bank signature cards, in order to allow members of the ring to better imitate a victim’s signature.

In addition, according to court documents, ALMAHDI conducted searches about the victims through internet websites, like, to gain additional personal identifying information of victims. DAMES often ordered the victim’s credit report through by impersonating the victim and entering his or her stolen personal identifying information as his own. DAMES and co-conspirators subsequently opened credit cards in victims’ names and purchased expensive items, including electronics, without paying for them.

On April 27, 2010, Bronx detectives conducted a search warrant at MITCHELL’s apartment and recovered, among other things, hundreds of stolen documents, including social security cards, driver’s licenses, checks, and credit cards, belonging to more than 100 different people. Some of the checks were from the same checkbooks used by Garnett, Walmsley, and Eli in carrying out fraudulent check cashings. Also recovered in MITCHELL’s apartment was a fraudulent identification card in a victim’s name containing Garnett’s picture. On December 29, 2010, Financial Crimes Task Force detectives conducted a search warrant at DAMES’s apartment, during which they recovered five stolen Chase Bank customer profiles.

In total, the defendants are alleged to have stolen more than $1 million dollars from J.P. Morgan Chase.

MCCANTS, WILLIAMS, and WYLIE have been fired by Chase Bank. Emerenciano was also previously fired by Chase Bank. DAMES and MCCANTS will be arraigned today in State Supreme Court. ALMAHDI, MITCHELL, WILLIAMS, and WYLIE are awaiting arraignment on this indictment.