Otis Barnes convicted of using stolen identity of 90-year-old man
Resident of Staten Island to cash counterfeit US postal orders
BArnes to be sentenced to 1 1/2 to 3 years in prison
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced the conviction of Otis Barnes, 29, of Brooklyn, after using the personal identification information of a 90-year-old Staten Island resident years to cash bogus United States Postal Service (USPS) money orders throughout New York and New Jersey and defraud a local bank to steal thousands of dollars. Barnes pleaded guilty to theft in the fourth degree, a Class “E” felony, with a promised sentence of 1 1/2 to 3 years in prison.
“Fraud is never acceptable, but it is all the more heinous for an individual to steal the identity of an elderly man to line his pockets,” said Attorney General James. âToday’s conviction should serve as a message to everyone that we will not allow illegal schemes like this to go unchecked, and that we will hold those responsible to the fullest extent of the law. My office is committed to protecting consumers, which is why we will continue to vigorously fight fraud and bring justice to New Yorkers.
âSir. Barnes thought his low-tech money order scam would let him fly under the radar and avoid the attention and detection of his crimes,â said Responsible USPS Inspector Philip R. Bartlett. “He was wrong; and today’s plea is Mr Barnes’ recognition that postal inspectors and their law enforcement partners have no tolerance for this behavior and will aggressively investigate on the crime, regardless of its scope or complexity. â
A joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Office (OAG) and the USPS Inspection Service found that between March 2018 and July 2018, Barnes repeatedly assumed the identity of the elderly victim by presenting himself as the victim in several USPS offices and in a check cashing establishment. As proof of his stolen identity, Barnes used a fake New York State driver’s license that showed the elderly victim’s name, home address and date of birth, but which contained Barnes’ photo in order cash several forged USPS money orders in the victim’s name. . Before cashing in the fake money orders, Barnes used a mobile deposit app to deposit the same money orders – under his own name – into a bank account he controlled. Barnes then withdrew the money from the account before the bank knew about the fraud. Because mobile deposit allows a customer to take a photo of a check or money order while retaining possession of the check or money order itself, Barnes was then able to modify the money orders to substitute the name on the money order and cash them a second time at local post offices.
The OAG indictment charged Barnes with the crimes of first degree identity theft, criminal possession of a counterfeit instrument in the first and second degree, and grand larceny in the fourth degree.
Today, before the Honorable Alexander Jeong, Barnes pleaded guilty to fourth degree grand larceny, a Class “E” felony. On January 20, 2022, Barnes is expected to be sentenced to 1 1/2 to 3 years in state prison.
Tips for Consumers
The OAG recommends the following tips for New Yorkers to protect their personal information and prevent most forms of identity theft:
Secure personal information:
- While it is generally safe to share your name or phone number, sharing a date of birth, social security number, or any account number can expose individuals to identity theft. New Yorkers should also avoid disclosing any information used as a “backup” response for websites when they have forgotten a password.
- Consumers should never provide personal information to someone who contacts them out of the blue, even if they claim to be from a trusted institution, as this is standard practice for those who use scams. by “phishing”. A phishing scam is an attempt to trick someone into providing personal information, such as a username, password, or credit card number. Scammers typically contact consumers by text, phone, or email, and often pose as a well-known government agency, bank, or business. They typically ask for personal information to resolve a problem or emergency, or say they just need to âconfirm certain informationâ before they can offer any feedback. None of these organizations actually contact consumers in this way for important information. If a consumer is unsure of the scope, they should contact the company themselves – using a published number or email address – to verify that it is indeed them..
- Some phishing attempts also trick consumers into visiting a website or downloading an attachment. Consumers should NOT download attachments or click on links from untrusted sources. These links or attachments may contain viruses that will infect a computer or steal personal information.
Delete unnecessary data:
- Destroy all personal information records when they are no longer needed. Destroy physical documents like tax returns and financial or medical records.
- Remove or disable digital accounts and delete digital files. Keep in mind that even deleted files can still be stored on a hard drive, so consumers will need special security software to erase all personal data if they get rid of an old computer.
Monitor credit reports:
- All consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report each year starting at each from major credit reporting agencies. If consumers see accounts or inquiries that they did not initiate or recognize, it may indicate that someone else is using their identity.
- Consumers can schedule reports from different agencies at different times of the year. Consumers can get this regular coverage in line or by calling 877-322-8228.
The OAG would like to thank the USPS Inspection Service for their invaluable assistance in this matter and the New York State Police for Barnes’s arrest.
The case was investigated by investigators Patrick Lubin and Nicholas Vaszeos, under the direction of supervising investigators Edward Keegan and Natalie Shifrin and Deputy Chief Leonard D’Alessandro. The Bureau of Investigations is headed by Chief Oliver Pu-Folkes.
The case was pursued by Assistant Attorney General Brandon Young of the Auto Insurance Fraud Unit and Assistant Attorney General Cheryl J. Lee of the Poughkeepsie Regional Office, with the assistance of supervising legal analyst Paul Strocko, Assistant Supervisory Analyst Jayleen Garcia, and Legal Analyst Sonja Leite. , under the supervision of the Bureau of Criminal Law and Financial Crimes. The Financial Crime and Fraud Control Office is headed by Office Manager Stephanie Swenton and Deputy Office Manager Joseph G. D’Arrigo. The Bureau of Investigations and the Bureau of Criminal Law Enforcement and Financial Crimes are part of the Criminal Justice Division, which is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General JosÃ© Maldonado and Senior Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy .