From his kiosk in Boston’s Downtown Crossing, a Brighton man led a sprawling identity theft ring that netted tens of thousands of dollars at the expense of a large number of victims, officials said Thursday.
The widespread operation was abruptly halted after Shahab “David” Yousheei, 36, was arrested Thursday morning on Boston Common when he allegedly tried to buy counterfeit money in a sting operation, Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office said in a statement.
Authorities said Yousheei carried out his scheme by using stolen identities to create credit cards, using those to buy gift cards, and then selling merchandise that he purchased with the gift cards.
He is also accused of buying smartphones with stolen identities at discounted prices for new account holders and selling the phones for a profit. Further, Yousheei provided associates with an illegal credit card encoder so they could make cards with stolen identities, officials said.
It was not known Thursday if he had hired a lawyer, and his family could not be reached for comment.
Investigators believe that Yousheei’s crew used the fraudulent credit cards to buy thousands of dollars worth of electronics, including iPads, which he resold at his kiosk or possibly overseas.
Officials on Thursday did not say how Yousheei allegedly pilfered the identities of his victims, but investigators believe many people were affected. They did not, however, provide a precise number of victims.
Coakley urged anyone who bought merchandise from Yousheei’s kiosk at 449 Washington St. to check their credit cards for suspicious purchases.
“In many ways, this is the new face of crime,” Coakley said in prepared remarks, “one that uses computers as the weapon of choice, one that robs people of their identities and financial information, instead of just their possessions.”
Coakley said investigators are trying to determine how many associates were working with Yousheei, but added, “We know it was pretty extensive.” She said that he took in at least tens of thousands of dollars from his alleged crime spree and that more people could face charges.
The attorney general declined to comment when asked if any of Yousheei’s associates are cooperating with law enforcement.
He was arrested after an extensive undercover operation by State and Boston police and the US Secret Service.
“Today’s arrest and seizure sends a strong message to those who engage in identity theft schemes and the illegal activities that go hand and hand with it,” Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis said in a statement. “The [Boston Police Department] will continue to join forces with our law enforcement partners to put you out of business and in jail.”
Mayor Thomas M. Menino commended the agencies involved in the investigation and had harsh words for Yousheei and his cohorts.
“I’m grateful to be rid of such cowardly individuals in an area so full of potential,” Menino said in a statement.
Yousheei is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Boston Municipal Court on charges of identity theft; illegal possession of a credit card encoder; falsely making a credit card; using a fraudulent credit card; receiving goods purchased with a fraudulent credit card; and possession of counterfeit money.
“Criminal schemes such as this have evolved significantly over the last several years” Steven D. Ricciardi, special agent in charge of the Secret Service field office in Boston said in a statement.
“Cooperation between law enforcement has allowed us to focus our resources and respond quickly to uncover criminal activity with a high level of community impact such as these types of crimes.”