New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the arrest of Otis Barnes of Brooklyn for identity theft and the embezzlement of thousands of dollars, according to a release from her office on Monday.
The 29-year-old Barnes was arraigned and arrested Friday evening in Westchester by the New York State police and charged with 18 counts, including using the personal information of a 90-year old Staten Island resident to cash forged money orders at United States Post Service offices throughout New York and New Jersey, as well as defrauding a local bank.
"This individual not only stole thousands, but preyed on an unsuspecting elderly man, which is why today's arrest should come as welcomed news to all those in the New York City area," said James.
A joint investigation by the Attorney General's Auto Insurance Fraud Unit and the United States Postal Inspection Service revealed that Barnes allegedly assumed the elderly victim's identity on several occasions, by presenting himself as the victim at several USPS offices and at a check cashing establishment.
As proof of his stolen identity, Barnes is accused of using a forged New York State driver's license that listed the victim's name, home address and date of birth, but contained Barnes' photograph, in order to cash several forged USPS money orders in the victim's name.
"Mr. Barnes couldn't have thought he would get away with this crime, when he left a trail of evidence leading right to his true identity and his front door," said USPS Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett. "As today's arrest demonstrates, if you steal from the U.S. Postal Service, Postal Inspectors will find you and bring you to justice for your crimes."
However, this wasn't Barne's first time being arrested for an identity scheme. In 2014, Barnes was arrested by Nassau County Police and charged with grand larceny, unlawful possession of a skimming device, and unlawful possession of personal identification information.
The investigation further revealed that prior to cashing the forged money orders, Barnes allegedly used a mobile app to deposit the same money orders under his own name into a bank account he controled. Barnes then withdrew the money out of the account before the bank became aware of the fraud.
Because mobile deposits enable a customer to take a picture of a check or money order, while maintaining possession of the check or order itself, Barnes was allegedly able to then alter the money orders to substitute the name on the order and cash them a second time at local post offices.
"Identity theft is one of the most personal crimes an individual can commit, which is why my office will prosecute anyone who takes part in this shameless scheme," said James.
If convicted of the top counts, Barnes could face up to 15 years in prison.