New York, NY – December 6, 2018 – Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood today announced the conviction and sentencing of Sharif King, 32, of Manhattan, for stealing the personal identifying information of employees and prospective employees, and then fraudulently using their identities to steal an $8,000 insurance settlement, buy a $58,000 2015 Mercedes Benz Sprinter passenger van, and attempt to take out a $29,000 loan. An investigation by the Attorney General’s Auto Insurance Fraud Unit revealed that Sharif King engaged in two separate identity theft schemes between 2013 and 2014. King was sentenced to 7 ½ to 15 years in state prison.
“Identity thieves continue to find new ways to target and take advantage of victims – and we will continue to do what’s necessary to protect New Yorkers from being preyed on by these scammers,” said Attorney General Underwood. “I encourage New Yorkers to exercise caution when disclosing sensitive personal information. If you believe you’ve been the victim of a scam, report it to my office.”
According to the Attorney General’s indictments and statements made by prosecutors, King’s first identity theft scheme began in the summer of 2013 when he posted job opportunities online for his purported record label “Dower Music Entertainment, LLC.” The posting attracted numerous applicants from across the country who aspired to work in the music industry. King invited the applicants to a group interview in Manhattan, where King introduced himself as the Executive Vice President of Dower Music. King then hired applicants for unpaid internship positions where they would work from home and be reimbursed for expenses – with the promise of future full-time, paid employment.
According to statements by prosecutors, under the pretext of reimbursing their expenses and putting them on the payroll, King requested personal identifying information from employees, including their dates of birth, addresses, and social security numbers. King then used this information to apply for a credit card in the name of one employee and apply for a $29,000 loan in the name of a second employee.
Prosecutors further found that King directed one of his employees to purchase a 2007 Lexus for work purposes. The Lexus was registered, financed, and insured in the employee’s name, but King added his name to the policy without the employee’s knowledge. When King subsequently got into an accident with the Lexus, he pretended to be the employee when reporting the accident to both the police and GEICO. King then changed the address on the insurance policy to his own so that the insurance claim check would be mailed to his residence. After King received the $8,886 check from GEICO, he altered it by making it payable to himself, and deposited it into his own checking account.
On June 26, 2015, King was arraigned on a 15-count indictment in New York County related to his insurance fraud scheme, charging him with three counts of Identity Theft in the First Degree (a class D felony), one count of Identity Theft in the Second Degree (a class E felony), four counts of Forgery in the Second Degree (a class D felony), one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a class D felony), one count of Attempted Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a class E felony), one count of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (a class E felony), one count of Attempted Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree (a class A misdemeanor), one count of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Third Degree (a class D felony), one count of Insurance Fraud in the Third Degree (a class D felony), and one count of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a class E felony).
At the time of his arrest on the first indictment, King was in possession of a stolen Mercedes Benz Sprinter passenger van. Further investigation by the Attorney General’s office into the stolen van revealed a second scheme that King had concocted to obtain more personal identifying information.
In his second scheme, in December 2014, King claimed to run a bus company called “Upstate Family Transport, LLC” and interviewed a candidate for a purported bus driver job. At the interview, King directed the prospective employee to give King his driver’s license, social security card, and passport as part of the hiring process. King made copies of those documents, but did not hire the individual. Less than six months later, King impersonated the individual and used his identifying information to finance and purchase a $58,000 2015 Mercedes Benz Sprinter passenger van from a dealership in North Carolina. King then told the dealership that he was the driver for the individual, took possession of the van, and drove it back to New York.
On January 19, 2016, King was arraigned on a second 15-count indictment in New York County related to the bus company scheme, charging him with one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (a class C felony), one count of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Second Degree (a class C felony), one count of Identity Theft in the First Degree (a class D felony), six counts of Forgery in the Second Degree (a class D felony), and six counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree (a class E felony).
On March 12, 2018, King pleaded guilty to both indictments before the Honorable Judge Neil Ross in New York County Supreme Court. On the first indictment, King pleaded guilty to Identity Theft in the First Degree and Insurance Fraud in the Third Degree; on the second indictment, King pleaded guilty to Criminal Possession of Stolen Property in the Second Degree and Forgery in the Second Degree. On both indictments, King was sentenced to a total of 7 ½ to 15 years of incarceration in state prison.
In addition to his pleas in New York County, King also pleaded guilty in federal court to Access Device Fraud in a similar identity theft case prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. King was sentenced to 37 months of incarceration in the federal case, and will serve his state and federal sentences concurrently.
The Attorney General thanks the United States Probation Office, Southern District of New York for their assistance in apprehending the defendant, and GEICO Insurance Company, Capital One Bank, N.A., Lending Club, the New York City Police Department Major Case Squad, and the New York State Department of Financial Services for their valuable assistance in this case.
The case was prosecuted by Senior Investigative Counsel Nina Sas, formerly of the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau’s Auto Insurance Fraud Unit, and Assistant Attorney General Michael Hendrick with the assistance of Legal Analysts Yuriy Kurbatov and Samantha Wintner. The Auto Insurance Fraud Unit is led by Unit Chief Gabriel Tapalaga. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton and Deputy Bureau Chief Joseph D’Arrigo. The Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Division is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Margaret Garnett.
The investigation was handled by Investigators Brian Maher, Adrian Klapper, Severino Concordia, John Roman, and Nicholas Vazeos; Supervising Investigators Natalie Shifrin and Edward Keegan; and Deputy Chief of Investigations Leonard D’Alessandro of the Auto Insurance Fraud Unit. The Investigations Division is led by Bureau Chief Dominick Zarrella.