The 22-year-old musician, whose birth name is Ashley Bautista, allegedly worked with Gabriel Molina, an Upper West Side apartment building concierge who took surreptitious photos of tenant rent checks to grab information to create the bogus checks. Others, including someone identified only as “JD Glasses,” are accused of meeting with recruited participants to pick up their ATM cards, deposit the forged checks into their accounts and withdraw the funds. The scheme allegedly netted the defendants $62,000.
“Social media users who see these posts promising quick, fast money should know that they are scams, they are illegal, and those who coordinate and participate in them may find themselves facing criminal charges like the ones contained in today’s indictment,” Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in a statement this week.
That type of scam, where people are paid to allow their accounts and debit cards to be used in fraud, is known as “card cracking.” Law enforcement agencies have warned for years about social media posts luring people to participate in such schemes. In a 2015 report, the Federal Trade Commission reported that in some cases, social media users—and especially students—may innocently provide their account credentials, for instance, to participate in a contest, while in other cases they’re explicitly compensated for the use of their accounts.
“Many students heading off to school or joining the work force are opening their first bank accounts,” wrote FTC attorney Lesley Fair. “Involvement in a scam like card cracking threatens their financial future. One tip that bears repeating: No above-board contest, social media promotion, or job opportunity requires that people hand over their bank cards, PIN numbers, or online banking credentials. Never give anyone a crack at your account.”
A separate but similar New York case last year alleged that more than $2.5 million in stolen funds were deposited and more than $1 million withdrawn by another card-cracking ring.
“These defendants are accused of luring young people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to join a ‘debit card cracking’ scheme which netted more than a million dollars in cash,” Vance said at the time. “Kids on social media who see posts like these—staged in hot tubs, sports cars, or among piles of cash—should know that debit card cracking is illegal, and is on law enforcement’s radar. You will not get to keep the money, and you could end up in jail.”
In a recent Instagram post, Young Ash denied the allegations.
She’s not the first social media-savvy rapper to be accused of recruiting fans to crack cards: Two Chicago area rappers, Kevin Ford and Cortez Stevens, pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy charges in 2017, accused of paying people found through social media to allow them to use their bank accounts for such a scheme. They agreed to pay more than $141,000 in total restitution, including an Audi and Maserati forfeit to authorities.