MANHATTAN (CN) - A group of identity thieves and pickpockets was busted up because the ringleader's disguises gave them away, state prosecutors said. A bank investigator watching surveillance tapes kept seeing a man lurking about dressed up as a doctor with a stethoscope or as a construction worker with a hard hat, according to the 639-count indictment.
The alleged ringleader, Arthur Franklin, allegedly went to banks to watch his cohorts make phony transactions while wearing wigs, hats, makeup and glasses to try to look like the victims of their fraud. Franklin is one of 15 people charged in the lengthy indictment, which accuses the ring of stealing more than $600,000, stealing the identities of more than 100 people, and ripping off more than 60 accounts.
Franklin, his older brother Vincent Franklin and Joseph Simms, allegedly controlled the ring that targeted people around New York City.
In a complaint that reads like a modern-day "Oliver Twist," prosecutors say the ring would begin by picking a victim's pockets. The stolen information was sent to a collection agency in Harrisburg, Pa., where two employees would obtain more info about the victim, such as Social Security number and mother's maiden name.
The three masterminds then recruited more crooks to dress up like the victims and clean out their accounts, prosecutors say.
But a Chase Bank investigator repeatedly saw the stethoscope and hard hat, and found it suspicious that Franklin, 45, a parolee from Harlem, so often was lurking in the background of the surveillance tapes.
Simms and Vincent Franklin were also spotted overseeing the gang, prosecutors said.
Chase determined that the victims of these transactions all had reported being pickpocketed or having lost a wallet or bank documents. The group also hit victims at
Bank of America and Citibank, prosecutors said.
A search of Franklin's apartment allegedly turned up 200 stolen credit cards, checks, ID cards and wigs and a construction worker's hard hat was recovered from his car.
All 15 defendants face multiple felony charges.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.