A Rockville Centre woman pleaded guilty Wednesday after using fake Craigslist ads for nonexistent jobs and apartments to steal steal hundreds of identities nationwide and filing hundreds of fraudulent tax returns, according to the Nassau County District Attorney's office.
Susan Pemberton, 43, of Rockville Centre, pleaded guilty to grand larceny in the third degree, scheme to defraud in the first degree, offering a false instrument for filing, and identity theft in the second degree. She faces two to four years in prison at her Jan. 23 sentencing.
According to the Nassau County DA's office, Pemberton, along with Cynthia Sibert, 23, of Roslyn, requested more than $500,000 in state income tax refunds, which raised flags at the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. They also used the stolen identities to apply for bank loans and credit cards and stole a total of more than $75,000.
Throughout the nearly two-year long scam, the women placed ads on Craigslist for employment opportunities and apartment rentals that didn’t exist, Rice said. They sent their victims employment and rental applications that sought personal information and used that data to file more than 250 fraudulent tax returns, and to obtain bank loans and credit cards in their victims’ names.
Search warrants executed at the defendants' homes and rental mailboxes uncovered several computers, hundreds of documents, and notebooks with detailed records of the victims’ personal information and tax refund amounts, with several entries marked "BIG FAT REFUND," Rice said.
Credit cards and checkbooks in names other than the defendants, as well as credit card purchases of luxury goods, like Gucci baby shoes, were found at the defendants' homes, Rice said. Printouts of the Craigslist rental and job ads and applications were also found.
“These women were nothing more than two small-time scam artists who preyed on hard-working people looking for a job,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said. “My office will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who steal the identities of others for their own criminal gain. I want to thank the State Department of Taxation and Finance for their invaluable contributions to this investigation.”
Sibert also used her job as a home health care aide to steal the identities of elderly people in her care and opened credit cards in their names, Rice said.
Pemberton was arrested Nov. 16, 2011.
Cibert pleaded guilty to her involvement in the scam last June and was sentenced to time served and five years probation. A third co-defendant, Keith Campbell, 52, of Brooklyn, also pleaded guilty to his involvement last July and received a conditional discharge.
The arrests were the result of a joint investigation between the DA’s Office and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance’s Criminal Investigation Division – Buffalo Office. The investigation was assisted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.