Feds: Fraud suspect charmed bank tellers

WYNNEFIELD HEIGHTS, Pa. - October 21, 2009

PNC is one of 8 banks federal authorities say were targeted by an identity theft-bank fraud ring.

It was a con that tapped into dozens of people's bank accounts to steal more than $1-million dollars.

The US attorney indicted 5 people who allegedly ran the ring under alleged conman Miguel Bell of Philadelphia.

"He and Michael Merin persuaded employees of several banks to provide them with bank account numbers, social security numbers, birthdates and other identifying information that belonged to bank customers," US Attorney Michael Levy said.

They allegedly convinced 20 people to help carry out the thievery. Among them, folks off the street, who were given fake licenses and taken to banks to cash checks.

"Usually these were down and out people, usually drug addicts, got them phony licenses, they drove them to banks, these people cashed checks with what looked like legitimate info," Levy said.

As victimized customers notified banks, federal investigators got involved and traced the alleged ring to Bell.

"Bell allegedly has certain wonderful charms and used charms to romance bank employees to give him this info," Levy said.

The bank employees have all been charged. Some have pleaded guilty and will testify for the government.

All of the banks have replaced any money that was fraudulently taken from people's accounts. While authorities have not yet been able to trace the stolen money, if the alleged ring leaders are convicted, they could be sentenced to pay it back and spend hundreds of years in prison.

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