\HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (AP) — Thieves used counterfeit credit cards and phony driver's licenses created in a suburban man's bedroom to rent luxury vehicles at airports that were then turned around and sold at deeply discounted prices, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Authorities recovered 10 automobiles in the scheme, but they said they were still assessing how many vehicles may have been involved. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said investigators suspect some stolen vehicles were shipped overseas before investigators caught wind of the scheme earlier this year.
In one transaction, an undercover detective bought a 2013 Cadillac for about $2,000, the prosecutor said.
"This scheme illustrates to all of us what is happening today, with not only consumers who use credit cards, but businesses who are accepting credit cards, the dangers that lurk out there," Spota said. "Unfortunately for the businesses it's a tremendously high loss."
Three suspects were arraigned last week.
One of them, identified as Jason Gonzalez, 23, of Lindenhurst, was charged with possessing and using equipment used to manufacture the phony credit cards and driver's licenses.
Defense attorney Jonathan Manley pointed out his client was not charged with conspiring with the other two in the rental car sales scheme. Prosecutors said Gonzalez kept the equipment used to create the phony credit cards and driver's licenses in the bedroom of his parents' home in Lindenhurst.
Spota said the identities of several hundred victims were "skimmed" at an undisclosed retail business in Suffolk County. That information was then used to create phony credit cards, using blank gift cards that had been shoplifted.
The prosecutor said the suspects usually went to airport rental car counters late at night and rented vehicles for two weeks or more, but never returned them.
Paula Rivera, a spokeswoman for Hertz, said in a statement that the company works closely with law enforcement to recover vehicles that aren't returned on time without explanation.
A representative of the American Car Rental Association did not immediately respond to an inquiry seeking statistics on the number of rental vehicles that are reported stolen.