Look Out for These Eleven New York City Scams

All illustrations by Curtis Tinsley
Tourists are easy (and the only?) targets for MTA card scammers.
December is the final busy month before New York sees its tourism dip in January and February, and with all those out-of-towners comes the opportunity for easy money to be made at subway stations, in Times Square, and even at one of the city's museums. So, with a month left before Christmas, we present this 2014 guide to New York scams, old and new. These first-hand accounts show you're always capable of having the wool pulled over your eyes, whether you're a tourist or a lifelong New Yorker. Happy holidays!

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Bay Ridge Nissan Dealership Fined $100,000 For Falsely Promising Bargains To People Who Lost Cars During Sandy

Photo by C.S. Muncy
Post-Sandy wreckage on a roadside.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, scammers had a field day. There were people touting fake Sandy charities, fraudulent contractors who took money and left jobs half-done, or not done at all, and even a Queens woman who allegedly lied about losing her home during the storm to score almost a year of free hotel stays.

Bay Ridge Nissan, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, had a simpler con: promising special prices for anyone who'd lost their car during Sandy and wanted to replace it with a brand-new Nissan. The AG's office announced today that the dealership would pay $100,000 in restitution for the Sandy scam and various other deceptive business practices. Of that, $48,341 will go to 15 individual customers, and $50,000 will go to the state as a penalty.

And if you're wondering what the Sandy scam looked like, well, Bay Ridge Nissan is still advertising it on their website.

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Long Island-Based Kids Modelling Agency Was a $250,000 Scam, Says Nassau County DA

Categories: Scams

Photo Credit: ~Brenda-Starr~ via Compfight cc
Banking on kids' dreams of becoming famous, four people have been charged for scamming families with promises of landing their children acting and modelling jobs through their bogus modelling agency. Between 2010 and 2012, James Muniz, Jennifer Santiago, Jennifer Diaz-Domenech, and Michelle Alperin-Smith ran Model Talent Development Corp. and New Faces Talent Development Center in Nassau County. They falsely claimed that MTD and New Faces represented famous talent to lure parents into paying for services that never existed.

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A Brooklyn Couple Was Arrested for Scamming Immigrants with Bogus English Language Instruction

Categories: Scams

A Brooklyn couple was arrested in Syracuse on August 30 for a plot to scam nearly 100 Asian immigrant families out of tuition paid for English-language instruction. Patrick Panettieri, 63, and Joanne Panettieri, 59, extracted tuition fees ranging from $100 to $2000 before shuttering the three storefronts in Sunset Park where classes were held in the middle of the semester. Guess how much money they made off with in total?

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If This Dalton School Scamming Rejected Applicants Story Is True...

It's one thing to get rejected from a private school on the Upper East Side. It's a whole other thing when you get scammed soon after, simply for not making the cut.

That's the word coming from the New York Post yesterday. Apparently, the Dalton School sent out a list of those who were on the waiting list and those who were rejected to "boosters and alumni." The reason: to fundraise money by comforting parents into thinking the school wasn't just abandoning them. Because nothing says comfort than a post-rejection "Hey, wanna toss the school that didn't accept your student a few bucks for old times sake?"

But the response has been a catch-22. Parents are up in arms about the reported gesture from the school. Except, if they take Dalton to court, the whole world will find out their lovely son or daughter is going to public school for the rest of their life. Oh, the shame.

The Dalton School has sent out a statement, apologizing for the actions taken by the admissions board. Somehow, the two administrative bodies were not in communication. And, for many parents, the "I'm sorry" doesn't make the list of their rejected children disappear from the alumni's hands.

Oh well.


NYIT and Cardean Learning Ordered to Pay $4 Million for Swindling Students

via NYIT
The New York Institute of Technology and Cardean Learning, a for-profit online education company, will have to pay back $4 million for orchestrating a scheme to suck federal funds out of unsuspecting students, according to court documents obtained by the Voice.

NYIT, a not-for-profit college with a 14,000-plus student body, contracted with Cardean in 2003 to allow students at an online-based school, Ellis College, to receive federal loan and grant aid through NYIT's partnership with the U.S. Department of Education. In exchange for enabling Cardean to tap into those federal funds, NYIT received a cut of the college's revenue, documents say.

We reported in August on the mega bucks that for-profit institutions rake in while preying on the emotions and naivety of those with aspirations of attending college. NYIT and Cardean Learning jumped into the fray with the rest of the vulture-like institutions by syphoning funds out of individuals eligible for thousands of dollars in federal loans and grants.

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New York AG: Bronx Gas Station Charged $10 For Gallon Of Gas After Sandy


New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman just announced that his office has notified 12 additional gas station owners of his intent to "commence enforcement proceedings" against them after he claims they jacked up prices after Hurricane Sandy.

In one case, the A.G. says, a gas station in the Bronx tried to charge a woman $50 for five gallons of gas.

The 12 new gas stations -- all in New York City, Long Island, or Westchester County -- brings the number of alleged post-Hurricane gas-gougers targeted by Schneiderman to 25.

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New York AG Goes After Post-Hurricane Gas Goons


Prior to Hurricane Sandy, a gallon of regular gas at the Mobil station at 40-40 Crescent Street in Long Island City was $3.89. That price was even posted on the station's sign following the storm. When the storm came and went, that sign remained -- as the line for gas stretched for three city blocks.

Magically, when customers got to the pump -- after waiting in the absurdly long line -- the price went up to $4.89. If you were paying with a credit card, the price was $4.99 a gallon.

Only, it wasn't magic that made the price jump a dollar in under an hour, it was hurricane profiteers gouging prices to take advantage of desperate consumers -- and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman ain't having it.

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Counterfeiters Busted Selling Fake IDs to Undocumented Immigrants in Brooklyn

Categories: Scams

Two Brooklyn men were indicted on forgery charges yesterday for creating counterfeit identification cards and distributing them out of a Sunset Park bakery.

Jose Mateo Castro, 56, and Leonel Escamiilo, 43, allegedly sold counterfeit Social Security Cards, Green Cards and driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants in the name of at least six different people, according to a release from the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office.

Investigators from the Brooklyn DA's Office and agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began investigating the scam in July 2011 after receiving a tip about Castro's dealings. Experts say the cards we so well made that they'd likely appear authentic to the untrained eye.

Authorities say Escamiilo manufactured the cards out of his Sunset Park apartment where police found blank cards, holograms, laminates, a paper-cutter, a computer and printer capable of producing double-sided identification cards, according to the release.

Customers would allegedly provide Castro with passport photos and documentation, which Escamiilo then used to whip up the counterfeit cards. Castro sold the cards out Las Conchitas for $130 apiece, according to the release. The owners of the Las Conchitas are not implicated in the case.

"Trafficking of forged Federal identification cards is not a victimless crime," said Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes. "They are used for many illicit purposes, including identity theft, obtaining access to workplaces and other private areas. Because of the potentially grave dangers they pose, my office is committed to working with local and federal authorities, such as the Department of Homeland Security, to vigorously investigate, and prosecute those manufacturing and trafficking counterfeit documentation."

Castro and Escamiilo each face up to seven years in prison and possible deportation to Mexico.

Here's How To Not Get Scammed By Hurricane Opportunists

Tip No. 1: Don't let this guy fix your house.

So, your house was destroyed and it's time to rebuild. You're probably going to need a contractor. Unfortunately, there are a lot of slimeballs out there who will undoubtedly do whatever they can to scam hurricane victims and exploit a natural disaster for personal gain.

But there are ways to reduce the risk of getting victimized by these shameless hurricane opportunists -- many of which are explained by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Last night, Schneiderman offered suggestions on how to keep New York's hurricane victims safe from predatory scumbags looking to rip us off.

See Schneiderman's suggestions below.

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