Computer Crime Research Center

Teen Charged With Identity Theft
(Queens Boy Allegedly Stole Identities Of AOL Customers)

A Queens teen was arraigned Tuesday on charges he stole the identities of over 100 America Online customers, got credit cards in their names and charged over $10,000 in purchases of electronic equipment and racing car parts.

Shiva Sharma, 18, pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment filed in December that included charges of identity theft, grand larceny, and falsifying business records. He was released on his own recognizance and told to turn in his passport. His next hearing was set for March 11.

A telephone call seeking comment from Sharma was not returned.

Sharma could face up to seven years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.

The indictment accuses Sharma of using a software program to get e-mail addresses for thousands of AOL customers in September. After creating a Web site that appeared to be an AOL site, he e-mailed the customers, telling them their billing information had been lost and asking them to reply with their personal data, according to authorities.

Over 100 customers responded, and Sharma allegedly started using that information to get credit and debit cards with a total value of $500,000.

Authorities said the investigation started in September after a Florida man complained about fraudulent credit card purchases.

Postal inspectors began monitoring packages being delivered to Sharma's Richmond Hill address. He was arrested in November after accepting delivery of a package containing car parts ordered in the name of a New Jersey college student, authorities said.

According to Brown, investigators searching the basement of the home found merchandise, billing information, and forged identification documents.

Brown said Sharma was the first person to be charged under the state's new identity theft law, which identifies the crime as a felony.

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