(JTA) — An employee of the UJA-Federation of New York allegedly sold photocopies of checks from high-profile donors to gang members who used the identity details to steal more than $2 million.
Tracy Nelson, 24, of Brooklyn, was indicted last Friday for her role in the operation, as was the man she lived with, Roberto Millar, who is an Audi car salesman. Nelson pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail.
Fifty-five people were arrested in the scheme, mostly members of the Bloods, Crips and Outlaws gangs. Several of the arrested were charged with grand larceny and identity theft.
UJA-Federation told The New York Times that Nelson worked at the agency for three years and was suspended without pay in August. She has since been fired, according to the federation.
Since last May, the gang cashed money or transferred it to their own bank accounts and reportedly bought electronics, expensive clothing and luxury cars, according to the Times. Three tellers at Chase Bank knowingly ignored suspicious transactions or stole information from customers’ accounts, according to reports.
UJA-Federation said the Manhattan District Attorney told the federation that its donors did not suffer financial injury, but that the burden was borne by banks and credit card companies including JPMorgan Chase, TD Bank, Citibank, American Express and Discover.
Major donors who were victims of the scheme include Ira Rennert, who is estimated to be worth $5.9 billion; Eric Zinterhofer, a founder of Searchlight Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and the husband of Aerin Lauder, an Estee Lauder executive.
The UJA-Federation collects annual donations from about 60,000 contributors.
In a statement, UJA-Federation said it was informed of the fraud by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and was cooperating fully with investigators. In the wake of the theft, the federation said it hired a security consultant who has helped strengthen the organization’s financial safeguards and controls.