Another ringleader in a scheme to steal millions of dollars from banks using false identities was sentenced Friday to seven years in prison, the state Attorney General's Office said.
Aqeel Sheikh, 58, of Newark, had previously pleaded guilty to money laundering and conspiracy.
Sheikh was part of a scheme in which identities were created using stolen Social Security numbers coupled with phony names and birth dates. The scammers then applied for credit cards in the names of the false personas.
Bad checks were used to make payments on the credit cards, whose credit limits were raised as a result. Another aspect of the intricate scheme involved withdrawals from ATMs and via postal service money orders against the bad checks. The withdrawals were made before financial agencies realized the checks were worthless, authorities said.
The schemers ran up charges on the cards until the cards were "busted out," meaning until the credit limits were reached and could no longer be raised .
Yet another element to the scheme involved people posing as merchants who ran shell businesses. The credit cards were swiped at the non-existent businesses for goods and services that were never actually purchased, but the companies did receive cash reimbursements from the card companies, authorities said.
A sham business, USA United Trading, was opened in Jersey City to carry out this aspect of the fraud. That business carried out $1.2 million in fraudulent transactions. All told, the interrelated scams netted $3 million.
Others have previously been sentenced in the interrelated scams. Shaikh Dawood, 61, of Cranford, N.J., pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception and was sentenced to eight years in prison on March 8; Mohammad Zaman, 46, of Staten Island, N.Y., pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception and was sentenced to five years in prison on Feb. 1; Hassan Shahbaz, 46, of Jersey City, pleaded guilty to first-degree charges of conspiracy and money laundering.
He faced a recommended sentence of eight years in prison, with three years of parole ineligibility, but was deported prior to sentencing.
A total of 14 people have been charged in the investigation, the attorney general said.
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