Nearly three dozen accused gang members were charged on Tuesday with extensive credit card fraud and several other crimes, Brooklyn prosecutors said, and one defendant allegedly used the stolen credit cards to buy American Girl dolls.
The investigation, which started in the fall of 2015, nabbed 35 defendants associated with the Hoodstarz gang, and some affiliated crews, in Brownsville.
Police said the gang is believed to be responsible for dozens of shootings. They recovered nine firearms from the arrested members.
This case was the first in which the Brooklyn district attorney’s office used a warrant for Facebook private messages to help nab the defendants.
Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez called financial crimes a “new frontier for gang activity.”
“We now understand that our fight against violent crime requires us to tackle financial fraud as well,” Gonzalez added.
He said the defendants purchased thousands of names, likely from the dark web where hackers sell financial information, and then tested the credit cards they got by charging $1 at parking meters. The small charge, he said, didn’t raise any red flags with the credit card companies.
Gonzalez said one defendant, Shaquille Reid, 23, used the card so often he bragged to a friend, “the card shot like Steph Curry.”
“I guess it meant it never missed,” Gonzalez added. “But I guarantee he’s not boasting today.”
Reid was being held on an unrelated parole violation and had not yet been arraigned.
The defendants are also charged with several narcotics offenses, including conspiring to sell cocaine, and weapons charges.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill said cracking down on this type of gang activity is part of the department’s precision policing efforts.
“The schemes were as violent as they were eclectic,” O’Neill said about this particular takedown. “The NYPD is focused on relentlessly combating violence.”