Case Highlights Growing Identity Theft Problem in Hawaii
REPORT FROM THE CITY & COUNTY OF HONOLULU PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE - The Prosecutor’s Office released details of a secret grand jury indictment of five New York residents charged with 31 counts of identity theft and other crimes in Hawaii.
The indictment was unsealed last Wednesday night after the extradition to Honolulu of 22-year-old Falyshia Pierre-Lys. She was arrested in New York on January 17, 2013, by the U.S. Marshals service.
The indictment alleges that in April 2012, Pierre-Lys, 19-year-old Isatta Bassie, 24-year-old Shawnese Adams, 24-year-old Sean Khani and 24-year-old Tamel Vaughn traveled from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Honolulu and checked into the Trump Hotel in Waikiki. Over the next four days, the five used counterfeit credit cards to acquire merchandise from high-end retails stores including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Gucci, Ben Bridge, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Kaimana Kea Rolex.
According to the indictment, the five conducted, or attempted to conduct, transactions totalling $325,437.07. In the process, they victimized 17 individuals, 14 companies and three major credit card companies.
Bassie and Adams were arrested in Aruba in December 2012. They will be extradited to face charges in Hawaii as soon as their legal matters in Aruba are resolved.
Khani and Vaughn have thus far avoided law enforcement.
The indictment was made possible as a result of Act 325, a law passed by the Legislature last year. Act 325 authorizes Hawaii state court judges to issue search warrants for records located in other states.
Because of Act 325, investigators were able to seize records from mainland companies, including email, cell phone data, social network communications and financial transactions. These records were critical in helping investigators secure the indictment.
If the defendants are convicted of the charges in this case, they face automatic prison terms of up to 20 years, with no possibility of probation.
Identity theft facilitated by counterfeit credit cards is a growing problem. Over the past year, Honolulu police have seen a number of high dollar-loss cases involving visitors who come to Hawaii with the sole intent of using counterfeit cards to commit identity theft.
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