Three people are facing charges in Westchester for allegedly engaging in an elaborate debit card scheme to steal nearly a million dollars.
Bronx residents Latoya Robinson, 29, Tanya Hatwood, 27, and Manhattan resident Dashawn Johnson, 25, are facing wire fraud charges for their roles in a five-year scam involving “forced posting.” Robinson and Johnson were arrested this week, while Hatwood remains at large.
According to the complaint:
“When a customer presents a debit card to purchase merchandise at a store and the card is swiped at an electronic card reader maintained by the merchant, electronic signals are routed from the merchant to the brand of the customer’s debit card, and then routed to the underlying bank that issued the debit card.
"The bank then verifies whether the customer has sufficient funds in the account to cover the requested transaction, which is then relayed back to the merchant. When there are insufficient funds on the debit card presented by the customer, the card reader will display a message that the transaction request was denied.
“Many card readers have a functionality that allows someone to input a code that serves to take the card reader offline, overriding the denial message and verifying the transaction. Malign actors can take advantage of this functionality by inputting a fictitious code not provided by the issuing bank under the guise of entering a pin code or other authorization code, which could cause the card reader to show that the transaction was authorized.
"The merchant may then let the customer leave with any merchandise the customer attempted to purchase; the merchant would not learn that the code was fictitious and the transaction invalid until days or even months later. The process by which a customer could take advantage of the functionality is called ‘forced posting.’ ”
During the five-year stretch, beginning in 2013, the three allegedly used this security feature to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars, together and separately. According to the indictment, they performed "forced posting" dozens of times, allegedly taking more than $900,000 in total.
Each has been charged with individual counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. They face up to 40 years in prison if they are convicted.
“As alleged, the defendants took advantage of a security feature of the debit card processing system, which allowed for nearly $1 million in fraudulent merchandise charges,” Geoffrey Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, stated.
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