AG: Jersey City man deported for role in $3 million credit card fraud scheme

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A Jersey City man was deported as punishment for his role in a $3 million credit card fraud scheme where 14 people have been charged since 2015, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced.

Hassan Shahbaz. Photo courtesy of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Four defendants were sentenced in Union County Superior Court yesterday, but Hassan Shahbaz, 46, of Jersey City, was deported after pleading guilty to first-degree charges of conspiracy and money laundering, the AG’s office revealed.

He faced a recommended sentence of eight years in prison, with three years of parole ineligibility, but he was deported prior to sentencing.

Meanwhile, Aqeel Sheikh, 58, of Newark, was sentenced to seven years in state prison by Union County Superior Court Judge Candido Rodriguez Jr. He previously pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and money laundering.

Additionally, another ringleader was sentenced last month. Naim Tahir, 51, of Clark, was sentenced on Nov. 15 to seven years in prison by Union County Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch. He also pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and money laundering.

Rodriguez had also sentenced two other leaders of the scheme as a result of the investigation. Shaikh Dawood, 61, of Cranford, pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception and was sentenced to eight years in prison on March 8th.

Finally, Mohammad Zaman, 46, of Staten Island, N.Y., pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by deception and was sentenced to five years in prison on Feb. 1st.

Zaman has previously been identified as the mastermind of the scheme by authorities.

“This type of credit card fraud involving stolen and false identities imposes huge costs on the financial services industry and ultimately on consumers,” Grewal said in a statement.

“We are committed to working with the industry and our state and federal partners to investigate and aggressively prosecute these crimes.”

Three other defendants – Rilvan Junaid, Mohammad Shakeel and Mohammad Khan – pleaded guilty to third-degree charges and were sentenced to probation.

Furthermore, five defendants – Aqeel Ahmed, Shama Musir, Faisal Mushtq, Shakeela Ahmed, and Huda Ahmed – were admitted into the Pre-Trial Intervention Program and had their charges dismissed.

One defendant, Muhammad Bhatti, 68, remains a fugitive.

The defendants created “synthetic” identities by pairing stolen Social Security numbers with fictitious names and birth dates, using them to open numerous checking and credit card accounts, according to court documents.

They opened the accounts online to avoid face-to-face interaction with the financial institutions.

Tahir was primarily responsible for creating the synthetic identities and applying for the bank accounts and credit cards, using personal identifying information supplied by Zaman, officials said.