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Friday, February 4, 2011


Rikers Island inmate's credit card scam netted $1 million from iPads and Apple computers

Rikers Island inmate's alleged credit card scam netted $1 million from iPads and Apple computers

Melissa Grace

Wednesday, February 2nd 2011, 4:23 PM

The Apple Inc. iPad is displayed for a photograph. The popular tablet was part of an $1 million scam...

Acker/BloombergThe Apple Inc. iPad is displayed for a photograph. The popular tablet was part of an $1 million scam... were several other valuable Apple products. were several other valuable Apple products.


A Rikers Island inmate ran a nationwide cyber-crime ring from behind bars that forged fake credit cards to buy $1 million in iPads and  Apple computers, officials said Wednesday.

Shaheed "Sha" Bilal, 28, directed the massive syndicate, instructing his girlfriend and three younger brothers on how to encode the magnetic strips on credit cards with stolen financial information, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said.

An army of underlings then went on shopping sprees with the phony plastic, buying up iPads and MacBook laptops that were later sold at a discount to a fence for cash.

Vance's office charged 27 members in the nearly three-year operation, including Bilal's 29-year-old sweetheart, Ophelia "Philly" Alleyne, whom he deputized acting boss after getting busted on a separate charge.

Officials said he would coach Alleyne by telephone from jail.

Aside from employing his brothers, Bilal even kept the name of his illegal operation in the family: He dubbed the conspiracy "S3" in honor of his baby boy, according to a law enforcement source.

"This was, in essence, a family affair," Vance said at a press conference Wednesday.

According to officials, Bilal's gang would purchase stolen credit-card information from websites based overseas.

Using inexpensive credit-card encoders, Bilal's brothers then programmed the information onto the magnetic strips of credit cards.

Investigators said the scam - which lasted from June 2008 to December 2010 - went undetected for so long because the counterfeit credit card had the criminals' names, not the victims'.

The ring spanned 13 states and the District of Columbia. It was so easy and lucrative that one gang member who was a shopper branched out to form his own syndicate, prosecutors said.

Officials said that the conspiracy compromised hundreds of bank accounts.

The bust was the work of a joint investigation between Vance's office and the Secret Service.

Over the 18-month probe, investigaters deployed their own modern technology, including electronic eavesdropping and GPS technology, to track the gang's activities.

The ring created email accounts to store and circulate stolen card numbers with which they manufactured the fake plastic.

One account, created by Bilal when he was released from prison in December, was "[email protected], Vance said.

Nine members of the criminal gang including Bilal and Alleyne, were hauled before a Manhattan judge Tuesday on conspiracy and grand larceny charges. Prosecutors said other members are still being rounded up.

It was not immediately clear if Bilal's brothers Ali Bilal, Isaac Bilal, 25 and Rahim Bilal, 21, have appeared before a judge.

The three were also in charge of recruiting shoppers and running the fake credit card production, officials said.

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