Your single source for news, events and commentary that is of unique interest to African-Americans!
Friday, August 12, 2011
'Geovanni Kasanova' Charged with Seducing Bank Tellers to Steal Identities
By CHRISTINA NG
A New York lothario who goes by the name of "Geovanni Kasanova" has been arrested as the alleged ring leader in an identity theft ring that stole more than $1 million over the course of two years. His alleged main tactic: seducing bank tellers from JP Morgan Chase banks to help him steal identities.
"Kasanova," legally known as Richard Dames, 33, and five members of the alleged identity theft and cybercrime ring were indicted Thursday on 148 counts of stealing the money from at least 80 bank accounts.
"The ring both pickpocketed these victims on the street, and colluded with the bank employees, to steal personal identification that in turn enabled criminal organization to withdraw significant funds from bank branches from New York to Texas to Michigan," said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. in a statement.
"It sounds sexy, but it's just a fiction," said Dames' attorney Michael Mays. "I'm not telling you he's an angel, but I'm telling you he's not some identity theft kingpin."
"If you speak to this guy for a few minutes, he's not exactly smooth or charismatic," Mays said of his client. "He's overweight and his hair was all over the place. He's sitting up in Riker's Island and is penniless. It's not exactly like he's prince charming." Kasanova Charged With Seducing Bank Tellers in ID Theft Scam
Dames allegedly seduced Makila Williams, 25, and Kia Wylie, 30, who were working as tellers at JP Morgan Chase banks in New York.
The other three suspects are Jamaluddin Almahdi, 66, Wayne Mitchell, 42, and Ricky McCants, 30. McCants was also an employee of a JP Morgan Chase Bank.
The group was indicted on multiple felony charges, including grand larceny, identity theft and conspiracy. McCants and Wylie are also accused of numerous counts of computer trespass.
After becoming involved with Dames, the women allegedly accepted money from him to obtain personal information through the bank's computer system that allowed Dames to steal identities, according to court papers.
Mays believes Chase is using his client as a scapegoat for its own employees' misdemeanors. He said Dames has been in prison for over a year for previous charges, unable to make bail, and could not be running a crime ring from jail.
Robert Anthony Evans, the attorney for Makila Williams, said that his client is a naïve victim in this case and is "devastated" by what has happened.
"She's 25 years old, attending a college in New Rochelle, was working at TD Bank when she was arrested and had worked at Chase previously," Evans said. "She's what I call a civilian. There's no life of crime."
Evans said Williams met Dames in a Bronx bar ironically called Taboo. He said Dames introduced himself as Geovanni Kasanova, which his client believed was his real name until Evans told her otherwise on Thursday in a holding cell on Rikers Island.
"You can't make this stuff up. I'm living in a sitcom. Everyone who finished English literature knows things didn't turn out well for Casanova in the first story," Evans said. "One English literature class fixes this whole problem."
Dames allegedly bought her a drink and asked if she would join him for breakfast. He said his "assistant" would give her the number. The woman was taken in by him and they began a relationship.
Evans said Williams has no criminal background and comes from a working New York family. Her mother was a transit worker and her father was a former corrections officer.
"The last time my client did anything to get in trouble was be tardy for homeroom in 2003," Evans said.
A Bronx Kasanova Accused of Seducing Tellers in ID Theft RingWilliams' father became suspicious of the man his daughter introduced as Kasanova when he couldn't find any records of him. He asked his daughter to stay away from the man and even asked Kasanova to stay away from his daughter.
Even though she trusted her boyfriend, Evans did tell her attorney that once, after a big argument at dinner, she asked him if he was using her since he was always asking her about her job. He assured her he was not, and the relationship continued.
Despite these red flags, Evans said his client trusted the man she thought was her boyfriend.
"This is what happens when regular working class people run into criminals. My client's stated goal in life is she wanted to buy a co-op and finish college. This was not in the plan," Evans said.
The indictment also states that the bank employee suspects copied account holders' bank signature cards so that their signatures could be forged.
Outside of the bank operation, the indictment alleges that members of the group pickpocketed victims and waited weeks or months to commit fraud by opening credit cards in victims' names and using them to buy expensive items, including electronics.
The supposed Kasanova, born on Valentine's Day, has a lengthy criminal record. Prior offenses include a 2004 grand larceny conviction.
His attorney maintains that though Dames has had run-ins with the law before, he's not what the headlines make him out to be.
"This idea that he's a mastermind is ridiculous," Mays said. "The idea that he doesn't use a gun to rob, but kisses them to death is insane."
Dames and the three former Chase employees were arraigned Thursday and Mitchell and Almahdi are expected to be arraigned on Monday.
Each suspect faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. The group is due back in court on Sept. 14.