FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 4, 2022

 

Brooklyn Man Sentenced for Stealing or Attempting to Steal Over
$1 Million in Credit Fraud Scheme Targeting Pentagon Federal Credit Union

Stole Identities of More Than 178 Individuals to Apply for
Loans and Credit Cards in Massive Scheme

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez today announced that a Brooklyn man has been sentenced to three to nine years in prison following his guilty plea to grand larceny for stealing or attempting to steal over $1 million from Pentagon Federal Credit Union. The defendant used stolen personal information of more than 178 individuals to apply for loans and credit cards in their names and then transfer money to his own accounts. The defendant stole over $320,000 from Pentagon Federal Credit Union and attempted to steal additional funds totaling over $870,000 over the course of the fraudulent scheme.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “This defendant had no regard for the impact of his crimes on those whose identities he stole or the financial institutions he defrauded. This prison sentence sends a strong message that cybercrimes such as this massive identity theft scheme will be prosecuted vigorously and that those who victimize others online face serious consequences.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as Joseph Batrony Jr., 31, of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He was sentenced today by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun to three to nine years in prison. The defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree larceny on August 5, 2021.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, from approximately September 2017 to May 2018, the defendant engaged in a scheme to defraud Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed), a federal credit union headquartered in McLean, Virginia. He used stolen personal information of more than 178 individuals to open PenFed membership accounts and apply for loans and credit cards in their names before transferring the money to his own accounts or accounts of people related to or associated with him.

The identity theft victims are primarily residents of Western states whose personal information—including names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers—appear to be among those stolen in past “data breaches” targeting various institutions. Batrony allegedly obtained and used this information in his criminal scheme but has not been implicated in the commission of the data breaches.

Between September and October 31, 2017, the defendant filled out hundreds of online applications and made or attempted transfers of money, including 59 applications or transfers on October 27, 2017 and 42 applications made on September 29, 2017. After October 31, 2017, PenFed blocked the remainder of his attempted money transfers, including several online applications Batrony filled out in his own name, or that of an alias, “Aaron Green.” The accounts the defendant attempted to set up in his own name and that of his alias used a Kingston Avenue, Brooklyn address and telephone number associated with Batrony. Investigators with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office found that Batrony also used a mail drop service on Albany Avenue to receive mail and packages in the name of “Aaron Green.”

In April 2018, PenFed contacted the United States Secret Service regarding the account application made in the name of “Aaron Green,” as well as the connections PenFed had discovered among the hundreds of other fraudulent account applications. Secret Service agents determined the information “Aaron Green” submitted to open an account and apply for a $24,000 loan from PenFed included a fake New York State driver’s license with a photo that matched Batrony and a counterfeit Social Security card that belonged to a juvenile in Idaho.

Batrony transferred or attempted to transfer funds to 10 financial accounts in his name, in the name of Aaron Green or into accounts in the names of relatives, friends or “money mules”— people who would allow the defendant to use their account in exchange for a payment.

District Attorney Gonzalez offered the following tips for avoiding cybercrime and identity theft:

1. Use strong passwords and change them frequently
2. Enable two-factor authentication whenever available
3. Keep software up to date and use anti-virus and anti-malware tools
4. Only connect to the internet using trusted and secure networks
5. Set all social media settings to private
6. Do not provide sensitive personal or financial information in response to unsolicited emails or calls
7. Shred documents containing financial information
8. Educate family members about online safety and identity theft
9. Review your credit reports regularly and set up alerts for changes
10. Report suspected identity theft to financial institutions and law enforcement

For additional tools, go to IdentityTheft.gov

The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service.

Supervising Financial Investigator Deborah Wey of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division assisted in the investigation.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Samantha Magnani, former Chief of the Construction Crimes and Labor Frauds Unit, and Senior Assistant District Attorney Rina Lee, of the Frauds Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Gavin Miles, of the Frauds Bureau, and the overall supervision of Assistant District Attorney Patricia McNeill, Chief of the District Attorney’s Investigations Division.

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An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt.