mcpo plastic armyFREEHOLD –   A two-year operation focusing on eradicating fraud and identity theft has resulted in the arrest of 16 individuals during “Operation Plastic Army.”  The operation, running from November 2017 to January 2019, resulted in the dismantling of a crime enterprise that defrauded more than a dozen financial institutions.  Among those arrested in the sweep was tennis instructor Terry Kuo, also known as “Victor Lee,” or “Young Sheng Tang,” who was charged with 15 counts, including Conspiracy, Theft by Deception, Insurance Fraud and Forgery, announced Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

From January 2015 to on or about November 2017, Kuo served as the organizer and leader of a fraudulent business that stole identities of individuals in order to obtain credit cards, and then made numerous merchandise purchases without paying for those charges.  Kuo and more than a dozen co-conspirators engaged in this scheme with intent to defraud retail businesses and/or the financial institutions that issued those credit cards. On many occasions, Kuo and his co-conspirators obtained lines of credit by stealing the identities of other individuals.  After credit cards were fraudulently obtained, the defendants made numerous large purchases on the credit card, never intending to pay the debts incurred, leaving the issuing store or financial institution to bear the losses from the scheme. 

After merchandise was received from the fraudulent purchases, the defendants typically sold the items for cash through dozens of e-Bay accounts maintained by members of the conspiracy, or at local retail stores or pawn shops where the defendants had established business relationships.  Once the fraudulently obtained merchandise was sold for cash, Kuo and other co-conspirators opened fraudulent bank accounts in the names of individuals whose identities were stolen.  A bank employee at a Colts Neck financial institution, defendant Barbara Cirillo, assisted defendant Kuo and several other co-conspirators opening such fake accounts where the proceeds from the scheme to defraud were ultimately deposited.  To avoid detection by bank officials and law enforcement, deposits were structured in amounts less the $10,000 to avoid the triggering of the statutory required bank reporting requirements. 

In a further effort to conceal and disguise monies derived from the fraud scheme, the defendants often invested the criminal proceeds in various digital asset platforms used to buy, sell and store cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.

Also charged as part of the scheme and conspiracy were Kuo’s parents, George and Lynn Kuo, and Kuo’s cousin, Yuhsuan Lin.  After his arrest for other charges, set forth as below, Kuo unsuccessfully directed his family members to conceal certain evidence and instrumentalities of Kuo’s crimes.  These defendants took these items and belongings, storing them in secret locations, with the intention of selling them or destroying them, in an attempt to help Kuo evade detection by law enforcement. 

In total, Kuo and his co-conspirators fraudulently obtained more than 120 credit cards, and obtained more than $400,000 in merchandise as a result of the scheme.  Items typically purchased include, but are not limited to, Apple MacBooks, iPads and iPhones; luxury jewelry and clothing; high-end electronics; and tennis equipment.  As part of the operation, more than $200,000 in cryptocurrency was seized pursuant to court order by Monmouth County law enforcement – the first seizure of its kind by a law enforcement agency in the State.          

Assisting in “Operation Plastic Army” were members of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the New Jersey State Police, the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office and the Atlantic Highlands, Colts Neck, Freehold Borough, Jackson, Neptune Township, Marlboro Township, Neptune Township, Ocean Township, Old Bridge, and Campton New Hampshire police departments.

The following individuals were arrested:

Terry Kuo, 27, of Colts Neck, who maintained the business ATS Tennis in the same town, is charged with 2nd degree Conspiracy, 2nd degree Theft by Deception, 2nd degree Fencing, 2nd degree Financial Facilitation, 2 counts of 2nd degree Impersonation, 2nd degree Insurance Fraud, 3rd degree Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards Fraud, 3rd degree Forgery, 3rd degree Hindering Apprehension of Oneself, 3rd degree Witness Tampering, 4th degree Credit Card Theft, 4th degree Falsifying or Tampering with Records, 4th degree False Statements Made in Procuring Issuance of Credit Card and 3rd degree Possession of Personal Identifying Information Pertaining to Another Person.

Stuart Gordon, 29, of New York, New York, agreed with Kuo to commit a scheme to defraud financial institutions by applying for credit cards, charging credit cards, disputing legitimate purchases and organizing the sale of fraudulently obtained goods for the enterprise. Gordon was arrested on January 24, 2019 and has been charged with 2nd degree Conspiracy, 2nd degree Theft By Deception, 2nd degree Financial Facilitation and 3rd degree Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards.

Michael Marrella, 28, of Brooklyn, New York, agreed with Kuo to commit a scheme to defraud financial institutions. Marrella participated by applying for credit cards, charging credit cards, disputing legitimate purchases and organizing the sale of fraudulently obtained goods for the enterprise. Marrella was arrested on January 24, 2019 and has been charged with 2nd degree Conspiracy, 3rd degree Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards and 3rd degree Theft By Deception.

Camilo Hatuka, 26, of East Windsor, agreed with Kuo to commit a scheme to defraud financial institutions.  Hatuka participated by applying for credit cards, charging credit cards, disputing legitimate purchases and organizing the sale of fraudulently obtained goods for the enterprise. Hatuka was arrested on January 23, 2019 and has been charged with 2nd degree Conspiracy, 3rd degree Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards and 3rd degree Theft by Deception.

Noah Kluin, 22, of Atlantic Highlands, agreed with Kuo to commit a scheme to defraud financial institutions. Kluin participated by applying for credit cards, charging credit cards, disputing legitimate purchases and organizing the sale of fraudulently obtained goods for the enterprise. Kluin has been charged with 2nd degree Conspiracy, 3rd degree Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards and 3rd degree Theft by Deception. Kluin has not yet been arrested and is being sought by authorities.

Christopher Miranda, 34, of Freehold, agreed with Kuo to commit a scheme to defraud financial institutions. Miranda participated by applying for credit cards, charging credit cards, disputing legitimate purchases and organizing the sale of fraudulently obtained goods for the enterprise.  Miranda was arrested on January 23, 2019 and has been charged with 2nd degree Conspiracy, 3rd degree Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards and 3rd degree Theft by Deception.

Andre Fiel, 27, of Ocean Township, agreed with Kuo to commit a scheme to defraud financial institutions. Fiel participated by applying for credit cards, charging credit cards, disputing legitimate purchases and organizing the sale of fraudulently obtained goods for the enterprise. Fiel was arrested on January 23, 2019 and has been charged with 2nd degree Conspiracy, 3rd degree Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards and 3rd degree Theft by Deception.

Dave Lin, 35, of Philadelphia, PA, agreed and conspired with Kuo to defraud financial institutions. Lin participated in the fraud scheme by applying for credit cards, charging credit cards and disputing legitimate purchases. Lin was arraested on January 24, 2019 and has been charged with 2nd degree Conspiracy, 3rd degree Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards and 3rd degree of Theft by Deception.

Bryan Levin, 26, of Old Bridge, agreed with Kuo to commit a scheme to defraud financial institutions.  Levin participated by applying for credit cards, charging credit cards, disputing legitimate purchases and organizing the sale of fraudulently obtained goods for the enterprise.  Levin was arrested on January 23, 2019 and has been charged with 2nd degree Conspiracy, 3rd degree Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards and 3rd degree Theft by Deception.

Francis Munoz, 21, of Perth Amboy, agreed and conspired with Kuo to defraud financial institutions. Munoz participated in the fraud scheme by applying for credit cards, charging credit cards and disputing legitimate purchases. Munoz has been charged with 2nd degree Conspiracy, 3rd degree Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards and 3rd degree Theft by Deception. There is an outstanding warrant for Munoz but he has not been arrested.

Victor Lee, 27, of Campton, New Hampshire, agreed and conspired with Kuo to defraud financial institutions. Lee participated in the fraud scheme by applying for credit cards, charging credit cards and providing Kuo with the means to obtain a false identity. Lee was arrested on January 25, 2019 and has been charged with 2nd degree Conspiracy, 3rd degree Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards and 3rd degree Theft by Deception.

Hayden Gaspich, 26, of Virginia Beach, VA, agreed and conspired with Kuo to defraud financial institutions with Kuo.  Gaspich participated in the fraud scheme by applying for credit cards, charging credit cards and disputing legitimate purchases. Gaspich has been charged with 2nd degree Conspiracy, 3rd degree Fraudulent Use of Credit Cards and 3rd degree Theft By Deception.

Barbara Cirillo, 63, of Jackson, was a bank employee at a financial institution in Colts Neck. Cirillo was the personal banker for Kuo and was involved in the conspiracy, including opening fraudulent bank accounts.  Cirillo was arrested on January 23, 2019 and has been charged with 4th degree Falsifying or Tampering with Records and 4th degree Impersonation.

Lynn Kuo, 52, of Neptune Township, who is the mother of Terry Kuo, was arrested on January 23, 2019 and has been charged with 4th degree Hindering Apprehension of Another and 4th degree Tampering with Evidence, for attempting to conceal a number her son’s illicit belongings from law enforcement.

George Kuo, 65, of Neptune Township, the father of Terry Kuo, was arrested on January 23, 2019 and has been charged with 4th degree Hindering Apprehension of Another and 4th degree Tampering with Evidence. On or about for attempting to hide a number of his son’s illicit belongings from law enforcement.

Yuhsuan Lin, 29, of Rockville Maryland, a cousin of Terry Kuo, arrested on January 25, 2019 and has been charged with 4th degree Hindering Apprehension of Another and 4th degree Tampering with Evidence, for concealing a number of her cousin’s illicit belongings from law enforcement.

A Monmouth County Grand Jury had previously returned a superseding Indictment against Kuo in December of 2018.  This indictment, filed on December 21 of last year, charged Kuo with additional crimes, including first degree Kidnapping and first degree Aggravated Sexual Assault, committed during an extended time period.

All second degree crimes carry sentences of five to ten years in prison.  Third degree crimes carry sentences of three to five years in prison and fourth degree crimes carry sentences up to 18 months in prison.

Kou remains detained at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in Freehold Township. 

The case is assigned to Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutors Joshua Detzky and Ryan Lavender.

Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.