03/07/2005 12:00AM

Man seized at Aqueduct on fraud, ID theft charges


A federal fugitive was arrested at Aqueduct last Wednesday on charges he was laundering money through several New York Racing Association wagering accounts he had fraudulently opened.

Ervin Caspi, a 49-year-old naturalized citizen from Romania who resided at a hotel in Queens, faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted on charges of money laundering, credit card fraud, identity theft, forgery, and grand larceny. Caspi had also been sought for more than five years by federal authorities for credit card fraud in New Jersey.

At the time of his arrest, Caspi had $171,000 in cash on him, a counterfeit $100 bill, a NYRA voucher for $180, and papers containing more than 80 credit card numbers and 25 names and Social Security numbers.

Authorities allege that between Sept. 15 and Nov. 5 of last year, Caspi opened up three NYRA phone-wagering accounts using stolen identities. Those accounts were funded by cash transfers of more than $175,000 from 35 credit card accounts.

Furthermore, it is alleged that investigators conducted surveillance of Caspi obtaining vouchers from self-service betting terminals at Aqueduct and cashing them.

One of the people who had an account opened in his name, a resident of West Amherst, N.Y., told investigators that his wallet was stolen last June. Since then, he has received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service claiming he had not reported tens of thousands of dollars in winning bets placed at Pocono Downs. He also received letters from creditors demanding $30,000 in delinquent charges.

Investigators from the NYRA and HSBC Credit Services uncovered the scheme last month and conducted a joint investigation with several state law enforcement offices.

A NYRA One phone account can be opened by phone, mail, the Internet or in person by individuals who can provide personal identification information including a valid Social Security number.