Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Four friends from NYU charged with ripping off banks of $422K, claiming ATM card thefts

From the Daily News by Scott Shifrel:

Armed with tons of ATM cards and a little-known federal regulation, four old school pals used a "beaut of a scam" to steal $422,000 from Brooklyn banks, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The four, three of whom were buddies at NYU, exploited a regulation that requires banks to repay customers who claimed their ATM cards were lost or stolen within 10 days, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said.

"This is really a beaut of a scam, I got to tell you," Hynes told reporters. "The scheme was as simple as it was brazen."
Using something known in the banking world as Regulation E of the Federal Electronic Funds Transfer Act, the four cleaned out their accounts and put in claims for $700,000 over five years, prosecutors said.

Cameras caught them taking the money out, but they were almost always wearing motorcycle helmets - even in sweltering summer heat - or some other covering to protect their identities, Hynes said.

The four, three of whom were in finance and one a lawyer and former paralegal in the Queens district attorney's office, flew under the radar by withdrawing relatively small amounts - several hundred to several thousand dollars but not more than $10,000 - from many accounts, prosecutors said.

Beginning in 2003, Eric Manganelli, Lam Dang, John Tluczek, and Tluczek's wife, Marzena Tluczek, deposited money in bank accounts across the city, taking out something like $20 legitimately to start things up, waiting a week and then taking out $500 to $1,000 a day until the account was empty.

They would then report missing or stolen cards and pin numbers, sometimes giving "excuses" that were at times "absolutely absurd," Assistant District Attorney Karen Turner said.
In 2008, Manganelli reported he lost a slew of cards and a computer spreadsheet of PIN numbers when he went to his safe-deposit box and left them on the examining room table, Turner said.

The scam depended on regulation E and Manganelli, 36, a well-connected lawyer who boasted on one Web site of having been a "high-ranking member of political campaigns," often wrote threatening letters to banks asking for their money.
Manganelli and John Tluczek, 35, met at Xaverian High School in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where Manganelli was valedictorian, prosecutors said. They met Dang, 37, who is a financial consultant, when they went to NYU.

The scheme came to light after an investigator at Wachovia Bank called another bank and began comparing notes. "They thought that nobody was looking," Michael Vecchione, the rackets bureau chief in the Brooklyn DA's office, said. "But these institutions have massive databases and it's just a matter of time when they cross-reference them and people get caught."
Among the banks ripped off were HSBC, where two of the suspects worked, Chase, and Signature Bank.

Prosecutors said they have 15 large files full of evidence they will soon start turning over to defense attorneys, all of whom vowed to fight the case.
Manganelli was released on $50,000 bail and Dang was released on $25,000. The Tluczeks are expected to make bail today. They each face multiple counts of grand larceny, falsifying business records and other charges and up to seven years in prison for the top counts.
Hynes vowed to ask for consecutive time, if they are convicted.

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