Penn. CU Helps Undercover Cops Nab Instagram Fraudsters
The $5 billion Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union in Harrisburg worked with undercover police investigation that led to the arrest of three Philadelphia men who allegedly used Instagram to steal from financial institutions.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Tuesday that Shakour S. Smith, 26, Ikeem M. Starks, 25, and Quadir J. Burley, 18, were charged with multiple felonies following an investigation that is still under way by the AG’s Organized Crime Section.
Smith, Starks, and Burley used Instagram to recruit people who allowed their accounts at banks in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties to be used to carry out the fraud. The suspects posted bank logos on Instagram and enticed people to “like” their posts. The criminals then obtained account information from the people who responded, promising them a cut of the money they planned to steal.
Pennsylvania authorities said the trio stole more than $50,000 from various financial institutions, including PSECU. However, the other financial institutions have not been identified yet because the investigation is ongoing and more charges are expected to be filed, Shapiro said.
The investigation began in February when Organized Crime Section investigators became aware of the suspects who posted bank logos on their accounts and asked other Instagram users who held accounts at those financial institutions to contact them.
An undercover investigator, posing as an Instagram user, contacted and met with Burley, one of the suspects. Burley said he would deposit fraudulent checks into the undercover investigator’s account and then would withdraw money before the bank could detect the bad check. Burley said he would split the money gained from the fraudulent withdrawals.
The undercover investigators gave Burley an account that was created by police and PSECU officials. Undercover investigators had a similar meeting with Smith, who provided the same information on how the scam worked. Video surveillance captured Smith and Starks making fraudulent withdrawals from the PSECU account provided by the investigators.
The three men were charged with conspiracy to commit theft by deception, multiple counts of dealing in the proceeds of unlawful activities and related crimes.