Federal authorities in New York arrested a woman last week for allegedly using stolen identities to rent out luxury apartments to members of violent street gangs.
Authorities arrested 35-year-old Latoya Williams on Oct. 5 at her Upper West Side apartment in Manhattan and charged her with aggravated identity theft and wire fraud, according to The New York Times. Authorities found several hundred thousand dollars stashed in her bed frame, according to a federal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Investigators first suspected Williams’ involvement in gang activity when her cellphone number, saved under the name “Toya Apartments” was found in the phone of a man who was shot dead in broad daylight while sitting in a parked Jeep in Queens in February 2021 according to the complaint.
The man was a known associate of the Makk Balla Brims street gang, a faction of the Bloods accused of countless violent acts throughout the city, prosecutors said. In 2019, the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn charged 17 people as members of the gang in a racketeering case.
In investigating the Queens shooting, law enforcement officials searched an apartment in Yonkers they said was occupied by gang members. That apartment was rented by a woman using the “Toya Apartments” number. In that apartment, investigators found a summons for non payment of rent made out to that same woman.
Further investigation revealed that the same phone number was also being used to rent apartments in Brooklyn that were being used by gang members. During one arrest at a Brooklyn apartment, cops seized five guns belonging to members of the Wood City street gang.
Authorities claim Williams used forged tax returns, bank statements, driver’s licenses and Social Security numbers to rent apartments in other people’s names so she could get away with not paying for them. More than 10 victims of identity fraud found themselves caught up in the scheme, according to the complaint. Williams allegedly used state unemployment benefits to pay for some of the apartments.
“The investigation has shown that apartments rented by Williams consistently have unpaid or underpaid rent, past-due balances, and other uncollected fees,” the complaint reads. “This has resulted, among other things, in lawsuits and debt collections being initiated against victims of identity theft in order to collect money owed for apartments leased fraudulently in their names.”
Williams was released on a $250,000 bond after making her first court appearance on Wednesday afternoon. Her lawyer has declined to comment to the press.