The Manhattan District Attorney has indicted two Miami residents for orchestrating a nationwide identity theft scheme that racked up approximately $2 million in fraud. Starting in 2014, Alberto Companioni, 31, and model Patricia Perez-Gonzalez, 26, opened dozens of American Express accounts under stolen identities, most of which belonged to senior citizens, and then splurged on designer clothing, vehicles, and more, the DA's office said. Though the two have been indicted for committing fraud nationwide, they're being prosecuted in New York because American Express is headquartered there.
— Alberto Companioni (@acompanioni) February 14, 2014
The actual logistics of the scheme were somewhat complex: the couple wasn't stealing money directly from their 40-plus victims, but rather allegedly collecting their names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers, which they then used to open new lines of credit. They had the platinum credit cards shipped to random locations, such as vacant houses and properties across the country, and intercepted them, according to the DA. It wasn't immediately clear how they obtained the personal information of the victims in the first place.
"The scope of the alleged fraud required the defendants and their co-conspirators to construct a network using stolen information to circumvent typical safeguards intended to prevent fraud, such as chip-enabled credit cards," said Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance. "Across the country, the defendants spared no expense while enjoying the use of credits cards opened in their victims’ names and inflicting damage on their credit."
Many of the victims apparently had no idea that huge amounts of debt were being racked up in their names.
The DA's office believes that Perez-Gonzalez and Companioni weren't acting alone, but that one of their co-conspirators is currently located in South America.
The two indicted allegedly used the fraudulently-obtained cards to fund vacations to New York, California, and Hawaii; go on shopping sprees at designer stores such as Burberry and Hermès; and buy Apple products to resell to overseas buyers. When searching their Miami residence, authorities said they also found ski gear, a Rolex watch, and several Chanel bags.
Perez-Gonzalez also allegedly used the cards to buy merchandise for resale on her online clothing store, called "Le Fashion Wheels." She links to this site on her Twitter, but as of today, both the website and the Facebook page appeared to be down, and the Instagram page made private.
The couple has been charged with multiple counts of grand larceny and identity theft. Both are being held on $500,000 bonds, and will appear in New York Supreme Court on April 28th.