AG: Sharif King Allegedly Lured Music Industry Hopefuls To New York City With Promises Of Record Label Employment, Only To Steal Their Identities
NEW YORK- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the arrest of Sharif King, 29, of Manhattan, for allegedly perpetrating an identity theft scheme in which he held himself out as a record company executive, hired employees and then stole their identities in order to open credit cards, apply for a loan, steal a vehicle and collect on an insurance claim. King is charged on a 15-count indictment with Identity Theft, Scheme to Defraud, Forgery, and Grand Larceny, among other charges, and if convicted he faces up to 20 years in prison.
“Identity theft is a complex and growing problem, and the allegations in this case show that scammers are getting more and more creative with the ways they target victims,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “All New Yorkers should exercise great caution when disclosing sensitive personal information and report when they have been targeted identity thieves.”
According to the indictment and statements made by prosecutors at arraignment, King’s alleged scheme began in the summer of 2013, when King posted job opportunities online for his purported record label “Dower Music Entertainment, LLC.” The posting attracted numerous applicants from across the country who aspired to work in the music industry. King allegedly invited the applicants to a group interview in Manhattan, where King introduced himself as the Executive Vice President of Dower Music. King then hired the applicants for unpaid internship positions where they would work from home and be reimbursed for expenses, with the promise of future full-time, paid employment.
Also according to statements by prosecutors, under the pretext of reimbursing their expenses and putting them on the payroll, King allegedly requested personal identifying information from employees, including their date of birth, address, and social security number. King allegedly then used the stolen personal information to open a credit card in the name of one employee and charge $2,384.75 in expenses, and to apply for a $29,000 loan and attempt to open a credit card in the name of a second employee.
Prosecutors further allege that in addition to using stolen identities to apply for credit cards and a loan, King directed one of his employees to purchase a 2007 Lexus for work purposes, claiming that the employee would need a fancy car to keep up appearances. The Lexus was registered, financed, and insured in the employee’s name, but days later and without the employee’s knowledge, King added his name to the policy. King allegedly then told the employee he was fired and stole the Lexus. Prosecutors further allege that when King subsequently got into an accident with the Lexus, he pretended to be the employee when he reported the accident to both the police and GEICO. King then allegedly changed the address on the insurance policy to his own so that the insurance claim check would be mailed to his residence. After King received the $8,886.32 check from GEICO, he allegedly altered it, making it payable to himself, and deposited it into his own checking account.
King was arrested today by investigators from the Attorney General’s Auto Insurance Fraud Unit and arraigned before the Honorable Neil Ross in New York County Supreme Court. The 15-count indictment charges King with three counts of Identity Theft in the First Degree (a class D felony), one count of Identity Theft in the Second Degree (a class E felony), four counts of Forgery in the Second Degree (a class D felony), one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a class D felony), one count of Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a class E felony), one count of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (a class E felony), one count of Attempted Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (a class A misdemeanor), one count of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Third Degree (a class D felony), one count of Insurance Fraud in the Third Degree (a class D felony), and one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a class E felony). The Attorney General’s investigation remains ongoing. King pleaded not guilty before The Honortable Neil Ross in New York County Supreme Court. Bail was set at $250,000 and the defendant was remanded into custody. The defendant’s next court appearance has been scheduled for July 20, 2015.
If convicted of all charges, King faces a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
The charges against King are allegations and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
The Attorney General thanks the United States Probation Office, Southern District of New York for their assistance in apprehending the defendant, and also thanks GEICO Insurance Company, Capital One Bank, N.A., Lending Club and the New York City Police Department Major Case Squad for their assistance in investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Michael Hendrick and Senior Investigative Counsel Nina Sas with the assistance of Legal Analyst Jonathan Hofman of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau’s Auto Insurance Fraud Unit. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Gary T. Fishman and Deputy Bureau Chiefs Stephanie Swenton and Meryl Lutsky. The Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Division is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.
The investigation was handled by Investigators Brian Maher, Adrian Klapper, and Severino Concordia, Supervising Investigators Natalie Shifrin and Edward Keegan, and Deputy Chief of Investigations Leonard D’Alessandro of the Auto Insurance Fraud Unit. The Investigations Division is led by Bureau Chief Dominick Zarrella.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jefferson Siegel, staff photojournalist at the New York Daily News