A Queens grand jury indicted 13 people accused of running a sprawling gift-card scam that raked in approximately $24 million over a two-year period.
The 192-count indictment, announced Wednesday by the Queens DA’s Office, charges that brothers Christopher and Bryan Nathoo oversaw a sophisticated crime ring that stole credit card information, used it to buy gift cards and then exchanged the cards for cash.
“The defendants are charged with a multi-million-dollar gift-card fraud scheme that victimized banks and retail stores and hurt the credit ratings of countless law-abiding citizens,” said New York State Financial Services Superintendent Linda Lacewell.
The investigtion began with an NYPD Grand Larceny Division probe of a fence based out of a 150th St. address in Jamaica in 2015. The fence, allegedly controlled by the Nathoo brothers, employed a variety of confederates, including “fence manager, swipers, shoppers, fence employees, money launderer and more,” according to the DA’s Office.
Swipers allegedly ripped the credit card numbers from the dark web, transferred them onto blank credit cards and then bought gift cards from stores such as Macy’s, Target and Bloomingdale’s. They would then sell the cards to the fence, according to the indictment.
To “wash” the illegally obtained gift cards, swipers or shoppers would allegedly go to the stores, buy stuff, then return the items for a “clean” gift card.
According to the indictment, the Nathoo brothers’ wives, Hama and Annarrisa Nathoo, used the “clean” cards to renovate and remodel their homes. Bryan and Annarrisa Nathoo have not been apprehended. Christopher and Hama Nathoo were arraigned Wednesday with Christopher’s bail set at $50,000.
The ring also allegedly sold gift cards to cardcash.com and laundered the money it obtained through shell companies controlled by the Nathoo brothers.
The Nathoo family did not return calls. They and nine others named in the indictment are facing between one and 25 years in prison on charges ranging from enterprise corruption to criminal possession of stolen property.
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