You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thirteen Defendants Charged In Manhattan Federal Court In Scheme To Take Over Ride-Sharing Driver Accounts

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and David E. Beach, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, New York Field Office (“USSS”), announced charges today against 13 individuals in connection with a scheme to defraud drivers of two ride-sharing companies (“Company-1” and “Company-2”) by accessing those drivers’ accounts without authorization in order to divert driver funds to bank accounts controlled by the defendants and other members of the scheme (the “Scheme”).  Through the course of the Scheme, the defendants compromised thousands of Company-1 and Company-2 driver accounts, and diverted millions of dollars from those accounts.  Defendants LOUIS PINA, MALIK GRAY, GEORGE JOSEPH, AKEEM KRUBALLY, THERESA OUTERBRIDGE, DEVON WILLIAMS, HAKEEM BALDEO, QUINTEEN LYNCH, KHALID NAZZAL, FRANCISCO VIRUET, JOHNNY SERRANO, THALIA CAQUIAS, and TANESHA FORD were charged in two Complaints (the “Complaints”) unsealed today in Manhattan federal court.  WILLIAMS, BALDEO, LYNCH, NAZZAL, VIRUET, CAQUIAS, and FORD were arrested today and presented this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman in Manhattan federal court. 

 

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “These 13 defendants allegedly developed a sophisticated scheme to swindle hard-working drivers out of their income.  Through elaborate identity theft and phishing, the defendants allegedly diverted millions of dollars from company accounts to line their own pockets.  Thanks to the skilled investigative work of the Criminal Investigators of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Secret Service, the defendants now will be held to account.”

 

David E. Beach, Special Agent in Charge of the USSS said:  “The success in this case demonstrates the investigative capabilities of the United States Secret Service and the collaborative efforts of our law enforcement partners, specifically the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of NY, Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Westchester County Safe Streets Task Force, and Westchester County District Attorney’s Office.  The Secret Service will continue to develop innovative ways to protect the financial infrastructure of the United States and combat criminals who use emerging technologies to conduct business.”

According to allegations contained in the two Complaints[1]:

 

Overview of the Scheme

 

The charges in the Complaints result from a Scheme to defraud livery drivers and ride-sharing companies using mobile ride-sharing applications.  The Scheme targeted drivers associated with Company-1 and Company-2.  Scheme members called Company-1 and Company-2 drivers posing as Company-1 and Company-2 representatives, and deceived the drivers into providing unique personal identifiers and other information that was then used to obtain unauthorized access into the online Company-1 and Company-2 driver accounts.  Once members of the Scheme logged into Company-1 and Company-2 driver accounts without authorization, they altered information in those compromised accounts and diverted driver funds to bank accounts they controlled.

 

Overview of the Company-1 Scheme

 

With respect to the Scheme involving Company-1, members of the Scheme ordered rides on the Company-1 mobile application (“App-1”), which provided Scheme members with the driver’s name, picture, and an anonymized phone number so that the rider could communicate with the driver.  Scheme members canceled the rides shortly after receiving the driver’s anonymized phone number.  The Scheme members then called the driver on the driver’s anonymized telephone number impersonating a representative from Company-1.  During the call, the Scheme member would ask the driver for the driver’s true telephone number and, while remaining on the phone with the driver, the Scheme member would attempt to log into the driver’s Company-1 account.  The driver then received a text message from Company-1 containing a unique code on the driver’s cellphone, and the Scheme member impersonating a Company-1 representative then requested that the driver provide this unique code to the Scheme member.  In addition, during the call, Scheme members would request that the driver provide the driver’s license number. 

 

Using the victim driver’s telephone number, driver’s license number, and the unique code, Scheme members thereafter logged into the victim driver’s Company-1 account through App-1 or the Company-1 web interface without the driver’s authorization.  After Scheme members obtained unauthorized access to the victim driver’s account, they changed the bank account information associated with the account to a bank account that either they or another Scheme member controlled.  Once the victim driver’s account had been compromised and the bank account information altered, funds that the victim driver earned from Company-1 were diverted to Scheme members’ bank accounts.

 

Overview of the Company-2 Scheme

 

With respect to the Scheme involving Company-2, members of the Scheme ordered rides on the Company-2 mobile application (“App-2”), which provided Scheme members with the driver’s name, picture, and an anonymized phone number so that the rider could communicate with the driver.  Scheme members canceled the rides shortly after receiving the driver’s anonymized phone number.  The Scheme members then called the driver on the driver’s anonymized telephone number impersonating a representative from Company-2.  During the call, the Scheme member would ask the driver for the driver’s true telephone number.  The Scheme member would then tell the victim driver that Company-2 would be sending the driver a link to a website that the driver must use to verify the driver’s information in order to obtain a bonus from Company-2. 

 

Thereafter, the Scheme member sent the victim driver a link to a malicious website (the “Fraudulent Company-2 Website”), that was controlled by Scheme members.  The Fraudulent Company-2 Website was designed to appear as if it were a website maintained by Company-2, and requested, among other information, the driver’s login credentials, including the driver’s phone number, email address, and unique Company-2 password.  Once the victim driver had entered this information on the Fraudulent Company-2 Website, Scheme members used the driver’s login credentials to log into the driver’s account through App-2 or the Company-2 web interface without the driver’s authorization.  Once Scheme members logged into the victim driver’s Company-2 account, Scheme members changed the bank account information associated with the account to a bank account that either they or another Scheme member controlled.  Once the victim driver’s account had been compromised and the bank account information altered, funds that the victim driver earned from Company-2 were diverted to Scheme members’ bank accounts.

 

The Defendants' Participation in the Scheme

 

Through the course of the Scheme, the defendants compromised thousands of Company-1 and Company-2 driver accounts, and stole millions of dollars from Company-1 and Company-2 driver accounts.  After receiving unauthorized transfers from Company-1 and Company-2, Scheme members withdrew the fraudulent proceeds from bank accounts, typically through large cash withdrawals or large purchases. 

 

Scheme members played different, and, at times, multiple roles in the Scheme.  “Recruiters” – including LOUIS PINA, MALIK GRAY, GEORGE JOSEPH, and DEVON WILLIAMS – used social media, including Snapchat, to bring new people into the Scheme and to coordinate the Scheme. 

 

“Callers” – including LOUIS PINA, MALIK GRAY, GEORGE JOSEPH, DEVON WILLIAMS and HAKEEN BALDEO – made calls to drivers impersonating Company-1 and Company-2 representatives using either their personal phones or a service that allows users to mask the number they use to make phone calls to victim drivers, during which they tricked drivers into providing personal information to allow them to obtain unauthorized access to their driver accounts.

 

“Account Hackers” – including LOUIS PINA, AKEEM KRUBALLY, DEVON WILLIAMS, and JOHNNY SERRANO – logged into Company-1 and Company-2 driver accounts without authorization to change bank account information. 

 

“Money Receivers” – including LOUIS PINA, MALIK GRAY, GEORGE JOSEPH, AKEEM KRUBALLY, THERESA OUTERBRIDGE, HAKEEM BALDEO, QUINTEEN LYNCH, KHALID NAZZAL, FRANCISCO VIRUET, JOHNNY SERRANO, THALIA CAQUIAS, and TANESHA FORD – received unauthorized transfers into their bank accounts from Company-1 and Company-2 as a result of the Scheme, and then withdrew large amounts of cash from those accounts shortly following these unauthorized transfers. 

 

 

*                *                *

 

PINA, 23, of Bronx, NY; GRAY, 21, of Mount Vernon, NY; JOSEPH, 22, of Mount Vernon, NY; KRUBALLY, 21, of Mount Vernon, NY; OUTERBRIDGE, 27, of Mount Vernon, NY; WILLIAMS, 22, of Mount Vernon, NY; BALDEO, 20, of Rye Brook, NY; LYNCH, 27, of Mount Vernon, NY; NAZZAL, 22, of Yonkers, NY; VIRUET, 19, of Bronx, NY; SERRANO, 25, of Bronx, NY; CAQUIAS, 20, of Bronx, NY; and FORD, 21, of Mount Vernon, NY, are each charged with one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of seven-and-a-half years in prison, and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison that must be imposed consecutively to any other sentence.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

 

Mr. Kim praised the outstanding investigative work of the Criminal Investigators of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the USSS.  Mr. Kim further thanked the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance and cooperation throughout this investigation, and also thanked the FBI’s Westchester County Safe Streets Task Force for their assistance. 

 

The case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Sheb Swett and Noah Solowiejczyk are in charge of the prosecution.

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the texts of the Complaints and the descriptions of the Complaints set forth below constitute only allegations and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Cyber Crime
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
17-385
Updated November 30, 2017