NYC Man Accused of Stealing $11K in Text Message Scam to Dead Man's Sister in Ireland

If convicted, Frederick Gilbert faces up to 15 years in prison

A man uses his smartphone
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A man is accused of stealing $11,000 from a woman in Ireland by using her dead brother’s cell phone – successfully convincing her that he was her sibling only to then repeatedly request she send him money in April 2019, the Queens District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.

Frederick Gilbert, 53 and of Middle Village, Queens, has been charged with grand larceny in the third and fourth degrees, identity theft in the first and third degrees, possession of stolen property in the third degree and criminal possession of a forged instrument in the second degree, all in connection to the alleged crime, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced.

Gilbert was arraigned earlier this week. His next court appearance is scheduled for May. If convicted, Gilbert faces up to 15 years in prison. Attorney information for him was not immediately known.

The Queens District Attorney’s Office alleges that in March 2019, Gilbert used a cell phone belonging to the recently deceased Thomas Munnelly to send text messages to the man’s sister in Ireland. Pretending to be Munnelly, the text messages stated that the brother and Gilbert had an accident at the deceased man’s flooring business in Queens, according to the district attorney.

Subsequently, and for several days, the text messages persuaded the woman to send money to her “brother,” who in reality was Gilbert, to cover medical expenses and to settle a threatened lawsuit – all while believing that her brother was in financial distress. In total, the woman allegedly sent three wire transfers to Gilbert totaling $11,000: one on April 1, 2019, for $5,000; one on April 14, 2019 for $3,500; and one on April 23, 2019 for $2,500. On each occasion, the woman allegedly received messages confirming the wire transfers had been received.

Citing the charges, the district attorney said that the woman also received a message from her “brother” on April 22, but after sending money on April 23, 2019, she stopped getting text messages from him. Because of the sudden lack of communication and worried, the woman eventually contacted the NYPD on May 7, 2019 and requested a wellness check, with police later informing her that her brother had actually died in a local hospital on March 4, 2019.

Additionally, according to the complaint, on March 23, 2019, an online credit card was opened using Munnelly’s personal information. The following month, several credit card transactions were made totaling nearly $460. The complaint also alleges that Gilbert was present when a cash advance withdrawal using the same credit card was attempted at a Capitol One branch in Howard Beach, Queens.

“The defendant in this case allegedly preyed on a woman in another country to feed his greed,” Katz said. “The victim had no idea her brother had died and sadly, this defendant used that to his advantage. The victim was convinced through text messages from the dead man’s cell phone that he was her brother and needed money. For about a month, she was allegedly conned her into sending thousands of dollars.”

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