A Middlesex County man and two New York men were charged on Sept. 3 with bank fraud and identity theft.
Benjamin Rich, 40, of Edison; and Frank Ambrosio, 35, and Felix Alamo, 59, both of Brooklyn, are each charged by complaint with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to information provided by U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito.
Rich and Alamo were scheduled to appear by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark on Sept. 3.
Ambrosio remained at large, as of press time.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Rich, Ambrosio and Alamo, and others, allegedly conspired to defraud banks across New Jersey, and elsewhere, by using the personal identification information (PII) of victims to open fraudulent bank accounts in order to deposit fraudulently obtained checks.
Rich would allegedly obtain checks that were either stolen or counterfeited, according to the statement. He would then allegedly create sham businesses with names closely resembling those of the payees appearing on the stolen or counterfeited checks. For example, if defendant Rich obtained a check made payable to “ABC Corp.,” he would allegedly create a sham business called “ABC LLC.”
Rich would later provide Ambrosio, Alamo, and other conspirators, with fraudulent identification documents bearing their photographs and the victims’ PII and business opening documents in order to open the fraudulent bank accounts for the sham businesses, according to the allegations. The conspirators would allegedly deposit the fraudulently obtained or counterfeited checks into those fraudulent bank accounts and then withdraw the funds before anyone could detect the fraud, according to the statement.
The charge of bank fraud carries a maximum of 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million, or twice the gain derived or loss caused by the offense, whichever is greater. The charge of aggravated identity theft carries a statutory minimum term of imprisonment of two years in prison, which must run consecutively to any other term of imprisonment imposed, and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gain derived or loss caused by the offense.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge James Buthorn, with the investigation leading to the charges.