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Press Release

Two Men Charged In Theft Of Over $2 Million In Stock Certificates From Deceased Manhattan Woman

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment charging STEPHEN DECKER and LUIS MERCADO with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to steal more than $2 million in stock certificates from the apartment of a deceased Manhattan woman, and then use those stolen assets to attempt to purchase over $2 million worth of gold coins.  DECKER and MERCADO were arrested this morning in Manhattan.  The defendants will be presented before U.S. Magistrate Judge James L. Cott in Manhattan federal court this afternoon.  The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan.   


Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “As alleged, these defendants preyed on a deceased New Yorker’s estate by stealing millions in stock certificates from her home.  Then, in an attempt to cover their tracks, the defendants allegedly sold the certificates and tried to purchase more than $2 million in gold coins so that the ill-gotten gains couldn’t be traced to them.  Thanks to the outstanding investigative work of the FBI, the defendants will now be held accountable for their brazen actions.”


FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “As alleged, when Decker and Mercado cashed out on stolen stock certificates, their right to ownership was nothing more than fool’s gold.  Not only did the certificates not belong to them, their rightful owner was an elderly deceased woman with no representatives to stake her claim.  Taking advantage of those who are powerless to defend themselves or their legacy has always been, and will always be, an inexcusable crime.”

According to the Indictment[1] unsealed today in federal court:


From March 2016 to February 2017, DECKER and MERCADO engaged in a scheme designed to steal over $2 million from a deceased Manhattan woman (the “Victim”).  As part of the scheme, DECKER and MERCADO stole stock certificates valued at over $2 million from the Victim’s Manhattan apartment after the Victim’s death in March 2016.  In August 2016, based on false representations made by DECKER and MERCADO, a financial institution (“Company-1”) opened a brokerage account (the “Account”) in the Victim’s name.  DECKER and MERCADO then deposited the stolen stock certificates into the Account.  In September 2016, based on additional false representations made by DECKER and MERCADO, Company-1 sold the shares in the brokerage account opened in the Victim’s name, resulting in a cash balance in the Account of more than $2 million.  DECKER and MERCADO then attempted to purchase over $2 million in gold coins using the assets in the Account.            

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The Indictment charges DECKER, 59, of Secaucus, New Jersey, and MERCADO, 53, of Manhattan, New York, each with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison.  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 FBI.


This case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra N. Rothman is in charge of the prosecution.


The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


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

Updated December 6, 2017

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 17-388