Archive for the tag 'scams'


Police say they’ve caught the man responsible for a pair of burglaries in Brighton Beach that targeted the elderly.

We first told you about the hunt for the perp on January 24, writing that cops were seeking a suspect in two burglaries in which the perpetrator gained the confidence of his victims before stealing their cash and jewelry.

Now they’ve arrested Salvador Morales, 58, of Washington Heights, and charged him with burglary, grand larceny and criminal possession on Friday.

In the two incidents, Morales allegedly followed the seniors to their buildings in Brighton Beach.

NBC reports:

[Morales] told them he was their upstairs neighbor and that water was leaking from his unit into their apartment, according to police.

He said he wanted to inspect the damage so he could pay for them, police said. He then asked the victims for change for a $100 bill so he could leave $50. While in the apartment, he took jewelry and money.

The victims include an 89-year-old woman robbed on December 24 and an 88-year-old woman this past Sunday. The suspect took about $2,400 in cash and several items of jewelry from both. No one was hurt.

Source: wmfawmfa/Flickr

Area resident Petr Murmylyuk was sentenced to 30 months in prison for conspiring to hack into retail brokerage accounts and execute sham trades, the U.S. Attorney announced on Friday.

Murmylyuk, who also went by the name Dmitry Tokar, pleaded guilty in July 2013 to charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He had previously pleaded guilty to charges of identity theft and tax fraud for a separate but related scheme.

According to prosecutors, Murmylyuk admitted to his role in conspiring to steal from online trading accounts at Scottrade, E*Trade, Fidelity and others wit the aid of foreign nations visiting, studying and living in the United States.

Here’s how the scheme went down, according to prosecutors:

Members of the conspiracy first gained unauthorized access to the online accounts of brokerage firm customers. The conspirators then used stolen identities to open additional accounts – referred to in the Information as “Profit Accounts” – at other brokerage houses. They then caused the victims’ accounts to make unprofitable and illogical securities trades with the Profit Accounts, leading to losses in the victims’ accounts and gains in the Profit Accounts. One version of the fraud involved causing the victims’ accounts to sell options contracts to the Profit Accounts, then to purchase the same contracts back minutes later for many times the price.

The members of the conspiracy recruited foreign nationals visiting, studying, and living in the United States to open bank accounts into which illegal proceeds could be deposited. The conspirators then caused the proceeds of the sham trades to be transferred from the Profit Accounts into those accounts, where the stolen money could be withdrawn.

In addition to the prison term, Murmylyuk is ordered to serve three years of supervised release, and pay restitution of $505,357.79.


Police are looking for help tracking down a suspect in a rash of Brighton Beach burglaries in which the suspect gains the confidence of his victims before making off with cash and jewelry.

CBS reports:

Police said the suspect followed the residents into their apartment buildings, telling them he is their upstairs neighbor and that water from his apartment was leaking into theirs, police said.

The suspect then tells the victims that he wants to inspect the damage and will pay for it, police said.

He asks the victims for change for a $100 bill so he can give them $50 for the damage, then goes through their apartments taking jewelry and money, police said.

The victims include an 89-year-old woman robbed on December 24 and an 88-year-old woman this past Sunday. The suspect took about $2,400 in cash and several items of jewelry from both.

Police say the suspect is a white male last seen wearing sunglasses, a ski hat and a waist-length jacket. He may speak Russian.

Below is surveillance video released by the NYPD:

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto Crime Stoppers’ website or by texting their tips to CRIMES (274637), then entering TIP577.


The New York Police Department is circulating the above flier to local civic groups and political offices in an effort to quash a new telephone scam.

According to the flier, victims are receiving phone calls from someone claiming to be a relative in need of bail money, or even a kidnapper demanding ransom.

While it might seem like a “duh” to most of us, the fact is that scam artists are good at what they do and manipulate their marks by preying on their emotions and confusion. Stay calm when on the phone, and never wire money in a panic.

If you receive a call that seems suspicious, hang up and call 911.

Honoring real survivors at a Holocaust Memorial Park ceremony. Photo by Erica Sherman

The ringleader of a $57.3 million fraud scheme that siphoned money from of a Holocaust reparations fund was sentenced to eight years behind bars yesterday, announced United States Attorney Preet Bharara.

Semen Domnitser played a pivotal role in the scheme, prosecutors say, having worked as a caseworker and program director that processed the fraudulent applications in return for kickbacks. Domnitser gave his seal of approval to ineligible recipients, many of whom were born after World War II and at least one that was not even Jewish.

In addition to eight years in prison, Domnitser was sentenced to three years of supervised release, ordered to forfeit $59,230 and pay restitution in the amount of $57.3 million.

“As the highest ranking insider to participate in this despicable fraud against the Holocaust Claims Conference, Mr. Domnitser played an integral role in the scheme by processing fraudulent applications to the Conference and turning a profit of thousands of dollars for himself,” said Bharara in a press release. “With today’s sentence, he will be held to account for victimizing Holocaust survivors by diverting funds meant to help them to his own pocket and contributing to this $57 million scheme.”

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Yeah, screw Canada. (Source: mezzoblue/Flickr)

BETWEEN THE LINES: In conjunction with occasional Sheepshead Bites postings of Crime Prevention Tips from the NYPD’s 61st Precinct, here’s my tale of identity theft.

You’ve probably heard the expression, “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Whoever said it was wisely precautious and I nearly found out how accurate that phrase is.

Someone with my fundamental awareness of ID theft tricks, telemarketing and sweepstakes scams and other forms of electronic exploitation, as well as a prior victimization, should never fall for a second scam. But, to paraphrase that insufferable pop song — oops, I almost did it again.

Nonetheless, anxiety, and an opportunity for supplemental income, almost led me into a fraudulent business relationship. Before I made any commitment or revealed too much personal information, I realized it was a rip off-in-progress, parallel to the notorious Nigerian money transfer scam. Ultimately, common sense, a little savvy, and advice from a friend triggered internal red flags and taught me an indispensable lesson without any loss.

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Photo by Erica Sherman

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (Photo by Erica Sherman)

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz is asking residents to be on guard in light of a rash of apartment rental scams plaguing the city. According to a press release, Cymbrowitz described the common scam and provided tips to avoid being victimized by them.

The legion of scam artists perpetrating real estate rental scams are growing. Since January, 211 complaints have been filed in the state regarding apartment information vendors and shady real estate agent operators. Of those complaints, 121 were from New York City. Cymbrowitz described how the scam, which predominantly targets first time renters and immigrants, works:

Many of the scammers will pose as real estate agents or “apartment hunters” who offer to work with a prospective tenant to locate an apartment. These individuals will demand that consumers pay money up-front in the form of a deposit, fee and/or first month’s rent before attempting to secure an apartment. They will often pressure the victim by appealing to their sense of urgency or special circumstances. Once the money is handed over, the scammer usually has no intention of following through or helping the tenant secure an apartment, and refuses to return the consumer’s deposit. Many consumers will simply accept the loss and move on for fear they will be singled out or because they are not familiar with the particulars of real estate transactions.

In order to help people victimized by apartment rental scams, Cymbrowitz listed the following checklist to help renters, as well as remind them of their rights:

  • Check if the real estate agent or apartment information vendor is licensed in the State of New York. Visit and enter the name of the person or business, or call (518) 474-4429. In New York State, all real estate professionals must be licensed by the Department of State, and must renew their license(s) every two years. Do not rely solely on a person’s testimony, business cards or advertisement.
  • Under no circumstances should you be required to pay an up-front payment or fee before securing an apartment. Do not be persuaded by anyone pressuring you to pay money up front.
  • Non-refundable commission deposits are not permissible. An agent earns a commission when he or she assists the landlord and tenant in reaching an agreement on all of the terms of the apartment rental.
  • Commission fees are negotiable. You have the right to negotiate the amount of the commission to be paid to a broker or salesperson. There is no such a thing as a mandatory commission rate.
  • Make sure the property you are interested in is legitimately for rent. Many scammers act as representatives of real estate that is not on the market or does not exist.
  • Remember to obtain a receipt for any deposit or payment you make. If an agent collects fees that you owe to the landlord, such as a deposit or the first month’s rent, the agent has an obligation to separate that money from his or her own. If the money is not immediately provided to the landlord, the agent must put the money into a separate escrow account until the transaction has been closed. If the transaction does not close, the agent cannot keep the money for him or herself and must return it to you.
  • Avoid making payments or deposits with cash. It is always better to leave a paper trail by using a credit card or a personal check. Make sure to save a copy of the payment for your own records.
  • Ask for copies of all documents: checks, money orders, the application, receipts, the lease and any other document related to your apartment rental and keep them in a secure location in case they are needed to dispute a charge.

Searching for a new apartment is often a nightmarish experience. When trying to find a place, I recommend that you enlist as much help as possible from family and friends, especially if you are new to renting. Also, in doing your research, be wary of places that seem too good to be true from sellers who are desperate to make a quick deal. Like Cymbrowitz says, make sure to get copies of everything to create a long paper trail for your own records and above all, never be pressured into making a decision on the spot without having checked out all the facts of the place in question.

Source: @Doug88888/Flickr

Authorities from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and NYPD busted a trafficking ring accused of setting up phony Sheepshead Bay medical practices to dole out prescriptions for highly addictive drugs, including oxycodone and Xanax.

Following a nine-month wiretap investigation, authorities yesterday said they arrested five members of the prescription drug trafficking ring that illegally raked in $3.4 million in bogus prescription drug sales through medical practices they controlled.

Sergey Plotits, 50, of Brightwater Court, was named as the ring leader and charged with conspiracy in the fourth degree and 16 counts of criminal sale of a prescription or controlled substance. According to the indictment, Plotits established medical offices in Sheepshead Bay and nearby neighborhoods for the sole purpose of illegally distributing large quantities of the highly addictive narcotics.

Find out how the ring operated, and why it matters.


City Council candidate Chaim Deutsch is tired of people dealing with the nightmare of identity theft, and is hoping that tougher penalties will deter future ripoff artists from pulling scams. In a press release, Deutsch also wants to root out bank card skimmers who use sophisticated tricks to steal people’s PIN numbers at ATM machines.

Deutsch pointed to the fact that no matter how alert you are, anyone can fall victim to a scammer, citing his own experience.

“With 22 years of involvement in law enforcement issues, I thought that I was well aware of bank card skimming tricks. I never thought that I would fall prey to one of these scams. But it recently happened to me and unfortunately, it’s a real threat and an everyday occurrence. Don’t think that you are immune to scams, no matter how savvy and alert you may be,” Deutsch said.

Deutsch’s release explained how people fall victim to bank card scams, which are increasing in sophistication:

The scam involves a device that is placed over or in an ATM’s card slot. The device reads your card number and sends the information to the thief. Deutsch explained that the methods that bank card skimmers use to steal your credit or ATM bank card information are becoming more sophisticated.

“People may not notice when a skimming device is placed over the card reader slot at an ATM machine. The device may be so tiny that it can be placed inside of the slot where it cannot be seen or over the existing card slot. Sometimes a tiny camera is also placed in a pamphlet holder near the ATM machine. The camera or skimmer then records your PIN number as you type it in,” said Deutsch.

The card holder has no idea that he or she has been victimized until a check bounces or they see unauthorized activity on their bank or credit card statement.

According to recent statistics, almost 80% of Americans have an ATM card and 60% of those people use it at least eight times a month. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that nine million Americans a year are the victims of identity theft. Many of these cases involve bank or credit card skimming.

Deutsch was impassioned when describing the frustration fraud victims experience and the disruption that the crime wrecks on their lives.

“A victim of identity theft has to spend a great deal of time and effort to get their lives back on track. ATM and credit cards need to be replaced. Numerous phone calls have to be made. You can’t make purchases or pay bills, because money is missing from your account and it may take several days for the bank to investigate the matter and issue a new card,” said Deutsch. “I am calling on our federal legislators to enact stricter penalties for those who are convicted of bank or credit card skimming and identity theft so that we may send a strong message to these scam artists that there are serious consequences for these crimes.”

Speaking from personal experience, I can attest to the fact that identity theft is a terrible ordeal to go through. My bank called me at work to inform me that someone was buying expensive jewelry in Baltimore using my ATM card information. My card was immediately canceled. Luckily, I just had enough cash in my wallet an on my MetroCard to make it home. Because it was a Friday, I had to wait until Monday to get it all straightened out, having to borrow money from friends to buy food for the weekend. Once I dealt with the bank, and extracted enough spending money, it took a week and a half before I received my new ATM card. While my experience wasn’t as bad as it could have been, it was an experience I don’t care to go through again in the future. Anyone else have identity theft nightmare stories?

Rabbi Yaakov Weingarten

Yaakov Weingarten (Source:

A Midwood-based charitable fundraising operation purporting to benefit Israel-related causes was shut down last week, after Attorney general Eric Schneiderman unveiled criminal charges against its operators for allegedly funneling millions of dollars into his own pockets.

The ring, operated out of a call center at 1493 Coney Island Avenue, was lead by Yaakov Weingarten, who, along with two associates, fraudulently raised millions of dollars through 19 separate charities, claiming the funds would go to program in Israel or religious activities, prosecutors say. In many cases, however, the charities never existed, and the funds went to Weingarten and his family’s benefit.

The AG’s press release lays out how the ring functioned, and on what the alleged fraudster spent the money:

As detailed in the complaint, filed in Kings County Supreme Court, more than $2 million in cash was withdrawn from charity bank accounts controlled by Weingarten between 2007 and 2013. At least an additional $350,000 in checks were made payable to cash and more than $280,000 in additional charitable funds was used to pay for mortgages on two homes, including the Brooklyn house purchased in 2009 by Weingarten’s wife, Rivka, which was remodeled with additional tens of thousands of dollars meant for charity. Charitable funds were used to pay for dentist visits, utility bills, for personal vehicles, video rentals and a trip to the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City in July 2011.

… The lawsuit alleges that Weingarten, 52, and an associate, Simon Weiss, 28, used a variety of unusual banking practices to conceal the fraud and transfer funds from account to account and for their own benefit. The defendants’ banking practices were so convoluted that they bounced over 2,100 checks, resulting in over $65,000 in donations being wasted on bank overdraft fees. The complaint further alleges that much of the money raised was funneled through accounts that exist in the names of several religious corporations that Weingarten created for this purpose, rather than to hold worship services or provide religious instruction.

The lawsuit also names Weingarten’s wife, Rivka, 52, who is alleged to have benefited from the charitable fraud. Another defendant, David Yifat, 66, is alleged to have been the office manager who supervised Weingarten’s telemarketing and mail solicitation operation.

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