The ringleader of an identity theft scam that stole more than $457,000 from Wachovia Bank (now Wells Fargo) customers in Newburgh, N.Y. will serve between 10 and 20 years in prison following his conviction on 15 counts - including grand larceny charges.
Tyrone “Reece” Lee, 29, already is serving up to nine years for operating another identity theft scheme in Westchester County, N.Y. His latest sentence will run concurrent to the first one.
In the latest case, Lee allegedly initiated the scheme by recruiting his girlfriend, Nadia Figueroa, to obtain a position as a bank teller at a Wachovia branch in Newburgh. Once she was hired, Lee taught Figueroa what customer data to steal and how to do it. He instructed her to search for common names and to copy specific information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers and signature cards. Many of the accounts victimized were selected by a practice known as "name surfing," wherein Figueroa illegally searched Wachovia’s customer database for common names, states of residence and high account balances.
Figueroa testified that at Lee’s direction, during the approximately seven weeks of her employment, Figueroa accessed the personal identification information of more than 200 Wachovia bank account holders without conducting any financial transactions regarding those accounts. She then gave this information to Lee, who in turn enlisted other co-conspirators to withdraw funds from the compromised accounts.
Lee obtained fraudulent driver’s licenses with the pictures of other co-conspirators and the names of compromised bank account holders, which were then used at the out-of-state bank branches to convince bank tellers to process fraudulent withdraws from the accounts of customers.
Using the stolen account information and forged licenses, Lee withdrew funds from 77 customer accounts at branches located in Nassau County and New York City, as well as in Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. Lee and his co-conspirators stole approximately $457,980 from Wachovia between July 2010 and August 2011.
In September 2014, Lee and Figueroa were arrested and charged by the New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office, along with three other individuals, for operating the identity theft ring from July 2012 to June 2014.