ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. -- Two Rockland County men have admitted to ripping off numerous banks for thousands of dollars in a low-tech scam using money orders, according to the Rockland County District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe.
Lawrence Lazard and Fabrice Stinfil, both of Spring Valley, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to stealing more than $20,000 from several banks in a scheme involving doctored U.S. Postal Service money orders.
District Attorney Zugibe said, “The defendants have admitted guilt, waived appeal and acknowledged that they ripped off numerous banks for thousands of dollars in a decidedly low-tech scam," Zugibe said. "They victimized not only the banks, which were forced to cover heavy losses, but also the honest customers who pay the price in higher fees. The defendants have now been held accountable for their deceit and greed.”
Lazard faces two to six years in prison in addition to forfeiting $17,568 to Capital One Bank and KeyBank as part of his plea.
Stinfil faces four years in prison and will be required to forfeit $2,724 to KeyBank as part of his sentence, Zugibe said.
The two were caught following an investigation by the District Attorney’s Office’s Special Investigations Unit, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Zugibe added.
According to Zugibe, the two men admitted that between June 2013 and November 2014 they deposited at least 300 altered money orders into accounts at banks in Rockland and Orange counties in New York and Bergen County in New Jersey.
The banks targeted included Sterling National Bank, First Niagara Bank (now KeyBank) and Capital One Bank, Zugibe said.
The scheme worked by the two men altering the money orders by pasting photocopied, larger amounts over smaller amounts on real money orders and then depositing them in various banks, Zugibe said.
“These men defrauded our New York and New Jersey banks, leaving them exposed to major monetary losses. They admitted to fleecing these institutions by altering money orders, or passing stolen checks, and making away with thousands of dollars," said Special Agent in Charge of HSI New York, Angel M. Melendez.
Lazard used the debit/ATM card and PIN associated with other individuals' bank accounts to deposit the money orders. ATM's would scan the altered money orders without detecting the alteration. The account would then be increased in value by the amount of deposit until the fraud was either discovered at the local bank branch or at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York City, often many weeks later, Zugibe said.
The deposits and many withdrawals by Lazard are all captured on bank video. Stinfil admitted that he helped Lazard to commit a crime by opening a bank account at First Niagara Bank, turning the debit/ATM card and PIN over to Lazard, who then deposited the money orders into Stinfil's account.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Robert Trudell handled the prosecution of the case, with the assistance of Executive Assistant District Attorney Richard K. Moran.