U.S. Secret Service agents arrested a Bay Ridge man they say was part of a coast-to-coast credit card forgery ring — but the suspect’s rattled neighbors believe that something far more nefarious was afoot.
The agents, who bust counterfeiters when they’re not protecting President Obama and other U.S. dignitaries, stormed the Bay Ridge Boulevard man’s apartment near 88th Street at 5 am on March 16, taking the unidentified suspect into custody and seizing computers, plastic that could be used to make credit cards, magnetic strips and a cash machine, explained U.S. Secret Service spokesman Pedro Escandon.
Yet some Ridge Boulevard residents didn’t believe that their neighbor was simply mass producing bogus credit cards.
Matt Thompson, a retired cop, said the agents carefully wrapped all of the suspect’s computers and files with tape — strict procedures the FBI uses when investigating terror cases, he claimed.
“I guarantee it was terrorism,” Thompson said. “They’re probably just saying it was something different.”
One neighbor said the alleged identity thief, a man she described as Middle Eastern, was friendly, yet withdrawn.
“Nobody knew him,” the woman said. “When he moved in here, he said he was a computer designer.”
The early-morning raid woke up everyone on the usually quiet block, she said.
“I heard a banging at five o’clock in the morning,” the neighbor recalled. “I almost called 911 because I thought it was some drunk banging on the door.”
Escandon said the Ridge Boulevard resident was one of 19 people in nine states who routinely logged onto an online black market bazaar where identity thieves sold stolen credit card numbers and other personal information to each other.
The thieves put the stolen numbers on fake credit cards that they used to buy goods with or sold to others, Escandon explained.