FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Mother and Daughter Indicted For Stealing over $250,000 from
Staples by Obtaining more than 700 E-Gift Cards without Paying
Allegedly Tricked Customer Service Representatives to Void Payments;
Purchased iPads, Luxury Apparel, Shoes and More
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a mother and daughter from Brownsville, Brooklyn have been indicted on charges of computer tampering, grand larceny and falsifying business records in connection with a scheme in which they allegedly stole over 700 electronic gift cards from Staples, causing more than $250,000 in losses.
Acting District Attorney Gonzalez said, “These defendants worked persistently and shrewdly in conducting this alleged long-running scheme. We will remain vigilant in uprooting all types of fraud in Brooklyn, including those that exploit digital vulnerabilities, and will hold those who commit them accountable.”
The Acting District Attorney identified the defendants as Rosemarie Barnett, 55, and her daughter Tashana Barnett, 30, both of Brownsville, Brooklyn. They were arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which they are charged with one count each of first-degree computer tampering and second-degree grand larceny and six counts of first-degree falsifying business records. Bail was set at $100,000 and they were ordered to return to court on November 29, 2017.
The Acting District Attorney said that, according to the indictment, between December 2014 and September 2016, the defendants fraudulently directed Staples employees to release over 700 e-gift cards without payment, causing a loss exceeding $250,000. Electronic e-gift cards are similar to conventional ones, but instead of being physical cards, they get emailed to the purchaser as credit that can then be redeemed at various retailers.
It is alleged that the defendants executed the scheme by creating phone orders of thousands of dollars’ worth of cards without paying, known as draft orders, and provided false billing information and various Gmail addresses that were associated with them. They then called Staples’ customer service hotline under false pretenses thousands of times, according to the investigation. They were rebuffed in almost all instances, but managed to successfully manipulate employees in some cases.
In some of those instances, the investigation revealed, they posed as customer service managers and claimed to be conducting a training exercise. Betraying knowledge of Staples’ ordering system, they instructed the representatives to override the payment requirement and to release hundreds of e-cards without payment. In other instances, they defrauded the employees into performing even exchange returns of e-cards, which effectively re-released the cards to the email addresses used by the defendants.
The defendants then allegedly used the cards at various retailers, including Target, Foot Locker, American Eagle Outfitters and Nordstrom. They purchased True Religion jeans, Ugg boots, Gucci shoes and many other luxury items and also obtained numerous units of Apple iPad Air and other electronics directly from Staples using the same scheme, according to the investigation.
The case was investigated by Detective Jackson Todd, of the NYPD’s Special Frauds Unit, and Investigative Analyst Janelle Cacopardo of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division, under the supervision of Brian Selfon, Chief Investigative Analyst.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Cooper Gorrie, of the District Attorney’s Cyber Crimes Unit, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Dana Roth, Deputy Chief of the Frauds Bureau, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.
An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt