May 08, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
A 19-year-old Morrisville College student was sent to the Madison County Jail this week for his alleged part in stealing thousands of dollars from a local bank account using a stolen ATM card and multiple fraudulent checks. The investigation of a second local suspect, also believed by police to be a Morrisville College student, is ongoing, and the case is believed by police to be connected to a larger fraud enterprise that spans across the state with the ringleader believed to be based in New York City.
After a two-month investigation, Muheez Folayaiye, 19, of Brooklyn, a sophomore at Morrisville State College, was arrested by Cazenovia police, assisted by Morrisville University Police, on Wednesday, May 7, and charged with two counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree, a class E felony, one count of possession of a forged instrument in the third degree, a class A misdemeanor, and two counts of petit larceny, a class A misdemeanor.
He was arraigned in Cazenovia Village Court by Justice Timothy Moore, who entered a not guilty plea into the record for Folayaiye and remanded him to the Madison County Jail in lieu of $5,000 cash or bond. Folayaiye was scheduled to return to Cazenovia village court on May 21.
As of Thursday, May 8, Folayaiye had not posted bail.
“This is the successful conclusion of a joint investigation between the Cazenovia Police Department, the Morrisville University Police and the New York State Police,” said Cazenovia Police Chief Michael Hayes. “It’s been an ongoing case since early March, when it started at the M&T Bank in Cazenovia.”
According to police, Folayaiye and two accomplices allegedly stole the ATM card of a Cazenovia College student and used it to make cash withdrawals from the victim’s account in local banks. Police are still trying to ascertain how the perpetrator’s got the victim’s ATM pin number, Hayes said.
The trio also allegedly created fraudulent checks that they deposited into other people’s bank accounts, then withdrew the money from the same accounts, knowing exactly when to withdraw the phantom funds (which was actually a withdrawal of the bank’s money) before the bank could discover the fraud.
Ultimately, no individual person or bank account lost money, the financial loss was suffered by the affected banks, Hayes said.
According to police information, the alleged incidents were first reported on March 21, when an M&T Bank customer reported four checks illegally drawn off his account — at values of $857.28, $821.05 and two at $984.32 — as well as several unauthorized ATM withdrawals at different locations including the Tops in Cazenovia, the Rite Aid in Cazenovia, the M&T Bank in Cazenovia and the Oneida Wal-Mart.
The victim, a Cazenovia College student, reported to police that he had gone out of town for the weekend and when he returned his bank card was missing from his dorm room.
According to police reports, surveillance cameras from the Oneida Wal-Mart showed a black male, age 18 to 25, using the bank card to withdraw a total of $900. He was accompanied by a second black male, age 18 to 25. The two men drove off in a dark red sedan that was driven by a third person who did not exit the car and was not seen on the surveillance cameras.
The next alleged incident occurred three days later, on March 24, when two checks were illegally drawn from an M&T Bank customer’s account for $811.67 and $833.92. According to police reports, surveillance videos showed the same two suspects using an unauthorized ATM card at the Cazenovia and Manlius M&T Bank branch locations.
In all, nearly $6,000 was fraudulently obtained in this case, according to police records.
Folayaiye, a Morrisville College student, fled the area when he realized that the police were looking for him, Hayes said. However, Folayaiye called his professors and said he wanted to take his final exams, although he could not show up on campus for the tests. He was told he had to take the tests on campus for them to count. He returned to the Morrisville campus Wednesday, May 7, in order to take his final exams, where Morrisville Investigator Fran Lust was waiting for him, and Cazenovia Police Officer Rich Bennett arrested him.
“I was in the middle of taking my finals; I didn’t even get to finish my finals when they came in,” Folayaiye said during his arraignment.
During the investigation, police discovered related cases in Oneida and other areas of New York state, Hayes said. Because the different cases are located in different jurisdictions, the state police will continue the investigations outside of Cazenovia, and continue to work with Cazenovia on the local angles, he said.
“Without the cooperation of the university police and the state police, it would have been very difficult to track all the suspects down,” Hayes said. “Without the assistance and skills of the university police, we never would have gotten this kid; and on my staff, Officer Bennett went above and beyond for this case.”
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.