A Commack man stole the identity of his unsuspecting daughter to bilk corporate and high-end limousine users out of more than $650,000 he then spent on his heroin addiction and gambling problem, Suffolk police said Wednesday.
A judge ordered Michael Katcher, 44, held on $25,000 cash bail or $50,000 bond at his arraignment Wednesday in Central Islip criminal court on charges of forgery, identity theft and related charges.
Suffolk police said Katcher created shell companies — including one incorporating his daughter’s initials, TAK Transportation — to bill frequent limousine users who failed to notice the extra charges, Deputy Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said at a news conference.
“The daughter, by all indications, appears to be a victim,” Sini said.
Katcher told his daughter the shell company would be “a great way to start out in life in that this company will be hers one day,” said Suffolk police Chief of Detectives Robert Oswald.
Two women thought to be Katcher’s wife and daughter left court after the arraignment but declined to comment. His court-appointed attorney, Robert Curran of Sayville, said he represented Katcher only for the arraignment and the family expected to retain a lawyer.
Sini said Katcher started his shell companies after the financial crisis of 2008 led to the demise of a limousine service where he worked with his father. A friend of Katcher’s father, also the owner of a New York City limousine service, bought the company, the deputy commissioner said.
After the purchase, the company, Alpine Limousine, hired Katcher, police said, and at some point he used his new position to access accounts of customers and send bills — with payment requested to the shell companies — to credit card firms.
After receiving the bills, the firms paid the shell companies and Katcher used the more than $650,000 to fund a $2,000-a-week heroin addiction, police said. He also used the money for “a gambling problem,” Sini said.
At least three credit card companies sued Katcher once they discovered the charges were phony, police said.
“These larger companies and these well-off people that were using the limousine services didn’t really catch it in the beginning,” Oswald said.
Authorities had already been investigating identify theft complaints when they learned that Katcher had written a fraudulent check to another person, who went to police.
Sini said the scheme went on for several months, and authorities believe the amount they suspect Katcher stole could increase as the investigation continues.
“The lesson here is monitor your credit card accounts, particularly if you have recurring charges,” Sini said. “Make sure those are fees that you authorized.”