Law enforcement officials say credit card fraud appears to be the latest frontier for violent gangs eager to make a quick buck. NY1 Criminal Justice Reporter Dean Meminger tells us about a major bust in Brooklyn.
"The Hoodstarz are a notorious gang that has terrorized parts of Brooklyn for years," said NYPD Assistant Chief James Essig.
That's what gangs usually do with guns, violence and drugs. But the NYPD and Brooklyn DA's office say several gangs in the Brownsville area were heavily into credit card fraud as well.
"I can say this Dean, that we know for sure that some of these people made this their full time job," said Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez. "That this is how they committed their life to doing this credit card fraud."
Investigators say alleged gang members printed thousands of illegal credit cards using real and fake names. They bought the card numbers from hackers who sell stolen identification and financial data over encrypted websites, what's known as the "dark web."
The members of Hoodstarz and other crews such as Folk Nation and 823 Crips then used the bogus cards to rent expensive cars and buy everything from concert tickets to food.
"One of the defendants a man named Tyrone Sexton — was apparently a big fan of the store American Girl and he allegedly bought expensive dolls," Gonzalez said.
Detectives say once the gang members printed up the fake credit cards, they needed to figure out if they were working. So, they came to muni meters and simply charged a dollar to see which ones were good.
But it wasn't all about having a good time. The gangs are accused of violence, drug dealing and buying guns with money from stolen cards.
"Sixteen have been involved in shooting incidents," said NYPD Assistant Chief Essig. "Seventeen have been arrested for weapons position. Twenty five have been arrested for robberies."
"We found a man who owned a gun in which an eight-year-old relative brought to his school," said District Attorney Gonzalez.
In all, 35 people have been arrested. As part of the case — for the first time, the Brooklyn DA was able to obtain a warrant to monitor direct messages between individual Facebook users. Until now, they only tracked public posts about gang violence.
"For those who are from Brownsville this is the end of Hoodstarz violence," said NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill.
And cops are looking to make more arrests.