So many people were arrested Wednesday as part of the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office’s sweeping investigation into a multimillion-dollar, multistate credit card fraud ring, the suspects had to appear via videolink from the Kearny jail yesterday in groups of threes.
In total, 32 people are charged with being part of the ring, including 26-year-old Oladayo Araromi, a nurse at the Hudson County jail in Kearny.
A resident of Linden, Araromi was arrested at the jail on Wednesday by Secret Service agents and has been suspended without pay, Hudson County spokesman Jim Kennelly said yesterday.
The investigation has identified nearly 1,000 victims across the country and millions of dollars in phony transactions, officials said.
Twenty-one of the suspects appeared in Central Judicial Processing Court yesterday through a videolink with the Kearny jail. Araromi was being held at the Essex County jail in Newark. The remaining people who were charged were arrested out of state.
The seven-month probe culminated with the execution of a series of arrests and search warrants early Wednesday across New Jersey, Queens, Brooklyn, and Long Island, and involved a slew of law enforcement agencies working with the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office.
The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office first got involved in the investigation in the early fall of 2012, when it received numerous complaints from victims as far away as California claiming that credit cards in their name were used to make fraudulent retail purchases in Hudson County.
Using store video and physical surveillance, detectives were able to identify several suspects, Acting Hudson County Prosecutor Guy Gregory explained in a release yesterday. Detectives then linked those suspects to hundreds of other accounts and millions of dollars in phony transactions.
The leaders of the group purchased the identities of unsuspecting victims from online brokers who got the information from computer hackers, officials said.
In a process known as “punching,” electronic account information from the cards’ magnetic strips would be transferred onto counterfeit cards, which were provided to “strikers” who made purchases at retailers across the Eastern Seaboard, officials said.
Teams of “strikers” purchased retail gift cards that were then used to purchase various electronic items. Those items were then sold in bulk to fences in New York and New Jersey. The fences would then sell the items to other people for cash payments, officials said.
The suspects spent the proceeds on luxury cars, high-end jewelry and other lavish expenses. Some of the money was additionally sent to accounts in Nigeria, authorities said.
Araromi has worked at the jail nearly two years and earns $79,000 annually, Kennelly said.
She is charged with conspiracy in the second degree.
Gregory thanked a slew of law enforcement organizations for helping with the takedown, including the FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Stevens Institute of Technology Police Department.
“The operation could not have succeeded without their assistance,” he said.
More arrests are expected as part of the ongoing investigation, officials said.
The defendants charged with money laundering, theft by deception, wrongful impersonation and conspiracy include: Araromi; Bolaji Ola, 30, of Sayreville; Olamide Otti, 27, of Queens; Akintunde Adeyemi, 28, of East Orange; David Brown, 27, of Parlin; Adegbola Adedeji, 31, of Parlin; Oluwaseun Jato, 23, of Hillside; Oluwasola Diji, 31, of Westbury, NY; and Bertrand Ahaneku, 25, of South Orange.
Those charged with theft by deception, wrongful impersonation, and conspiracy include: Oluwaseun Adekoya, 25, of Sewaren; Henry Abdul, 25, of Union; Babatunde Oyefeso, 27, Union; Michael Assih, 24, of East Orange; John Orubo, 32, of Brooklyn; Idris Soyemi, 25, of Brooklyn; Imrahim Akaba, 23, of Piscataway; Vladimir Francois, 27, of Newark; Yves Desir, 29, of Irvington; Aglaide Alzuphar, 23, of Newark; Kossi Klutse, 25, of Newark; Evon Morris, 23, of East Orange; Fontessa Foreman, 27, of Newark; Olutoye Babatunde, 22, of Plainfield; Olukayode Adeosun, 30, of Newark; Gologo Benshaw, 25, of Newark; Olushola Ayeni, 31, of Brooklyn; Orwells Oyakhire, 24, of Maplewood.
Oladayo Araromi, 26, of Elizabeth and Olujimi Williams, 24 of Hillside were charged with conspiracy. Matthew Sabo, 29, of Sayreville and Vijay Shah, 24, of Springfield, are charged with fencing, conspiracy, and receiving stolen property.