Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said Tuesday police had arrested a Richmond Hill teen and charged him with identify fraud after he allegedly stole the personal information of more than 100 America Online customers, then bought $10,000 in merchandise using their credit and debit information.
The indictment was the result of a two-month investigation working with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the first one made after state lawmakers increased the penalty for identity theft to a felony, the DA said.
Brown said police took 18-year-old Shiva Sharma, of 85-23 101st St., into custody and charged him in a 12-count indictment with identity theft, unlawful possession of personal identification information, criminal possession of stolen property, scheme to defraud, grand larceny, falsifying business records and several other counts. He said the defendant faces up to seven years if convicted.
The DA said Sharma set up a mock AOL Web site and then told a large number of customers that the Internet service provider had lost their billing and account information. Brown said 100 people replied to the phony e-mail from the site, which supplied the teenager with personal information, including credit card and debit card details.
Fortunately, he was arrested and stopped before he could damage the credit and reputations of other victims, he said.
Sharma is alleged to have purchased expensive items with the stolen credit card information, the DA said, including racing car parts and tail lights. Postal inspectors gained access to the defendants basement and recovered his desk top computer, which when searched, revealed the personal identity information of more than 100 people, Brown said.
The investigation into Sharmas activities began in September when a sheriff in Flagler County, Fla. contacted the postal inspectors after a 73-year-old man complained of fraudulent credit card purchases, Brown said.
The man told postal inspectors he had responded to an e-mail message from AOL saying it had lost his personal information and needed his credit card and identity information, Brown said.
The DA said investigators then traced the paper trail of Sharmas purchases, which led them back to his single-family Richmond Hill home where he lived with his parents.
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 156
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