FREEHOLD BOROUGH — The case against a tennis instructor charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting students was just the tip of the iceberg.

Authorities have now charged his family and a dozen other people, including a bank worker, in a massive identity theft ring of which the tennis instructor was the mastermind, prosecutors said Friday.

Terry Kuo, 27, of Colts Neck, also known as “Victor Lee” or “Young Sheng Tang,” was charged with 15 counts of conspiracy, theft by deception, insurance fraud and forgery as part of "Operation Plastic Army," a scheme that used 120 credit cards to purchase $400,000 worth of merchandise and more than $200,000 in cryptocurrency, according to Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.

His parents and a cousin were among 15 others charged this week in six states. At least two suspects remain at large.

Kuo was arrested February after a 13-year-old tennis student claimed various instances of sexual misconduct by Kuo during the summer and fall of 2017 at a Marlboro tennis club.

Dozens more charges alleging that he kidnapped and raped more victims were handed up by a grand jury in December.

Gramiccioni said forensic examination of Kuo's electronic devices during the initial investigation uncovered financial criminal activity.

"We were issued other warrants by the court to take up that part," Gramiccioni said.

Operation Plastic Army organization chart (Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office)

The interest of detectives was piqued by allegations that Kuo was grooming his alleged victims and their families with luxury items. How could he afford them on a tennis instructor's salary?

"Fast forward two years later we see a fuller picture. A lot of those items — high-end merchandise, luxury gifts and other items given to the child victims and their family members — were paid for as part of this credit card scheme. That's how these defendants and Kuo were able to pay for this kind of merchandise. He wasn't making it off just being a tennis instructor," Gramiccioni said.

The prosecutor said that after merchandise was received from the fraudulent purchases, the defendants created dozens of eBay accounts or sold them at retail stores or pawn shops where the defendants had established business relationships. The cash was deposited into bank accounts opened in the name of those whose identities were stolen.

One of those arrested was Barbara Cirillo, 63, of Jackson, who worked at a Colts Neck bank and helped open the fake accounts, according to Gramiccioni.

To avoid detection by bank officials and law enforcement, deposits were structured in amounts less than $10,000 to avoid triggering bank reporting requirements.

The prosecutor said that after the initial charges were filed, Kuo took steps to shut down the operation and unsuccessfully directed his family members to conceal certain evidence. They stored many of the items in "secret locations" with the intention of selling them or destroying them.

The name of the investigation was inspired by Kuo who referred to his co-conspirators as his "plastic army," a reference to the credit cards obtained as part of his scheme.

His mother and father, Lynn Kuo, 52, and George Kuo, 65, both of Neptune Township, were arrested Tuesday and charged with fourth-degree hindering apprehension and fourth-degree tampering with evidence for attempting to conceal their son’s illicit belongings.

Yuhsuan Lin, 29, a cousin from Rockville, Maryland, was arrested Friday on the same charges.

Prosecutors say Stuart Gordon, 29, of Manhattan, agreed with Kuo to commit a scheme to defraud financial institutions by applying for credit cards, charging credit cards, disputing legitimate purchases and organizing the sale of fraudulently obtained goods for the enterprise. Gordon was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree conspiracy, second-degree theft by deception, second-degree financial facilitation and third-degree fraudulent use of credit cards.

Michael Marrella, 28, of Brooklyn, was accused of applying for credit cards, charging credit cards, disputing legitimate purchases and organizing the sale of fraudulently obtained goods for the enterprise. She was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree Conspiracy, third-degree fraudulent use of credit cards and third-degree theft by deception.

Camilo Hatuka, 26, of East Windsor, was accused of applying for credit cards, charging credit cards, disputing legitimate purchases and organizing the sale of fraudulently obtained goods for the enterprise. He was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree conspiracy, third-degree fraudulent use of credit cards and third-degree theft by deception.

Noah Kluin, 22, of Atlantic Highlands, who remains at large, was accused of applying for credit cards, charging credit cards, disputing legitimate purchases and organizing the sale of fraudulently obtained goods for the enterprise. He was charged with second-degree conspiracy, third-degree fraudulent use of credit cards and third-degree theft by deception.

Christopher Miranda, 34, of Freehold, was accused of applying for credit cards, charging credit cards, disputing legitimate purchases and organizing the sale of fraudulently obtained goods for the enterprise. He was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree conspiracy, third-degree fraudulent use of credit cards and third-degree theft by deception.

Andre Fiel, 27, of Ocean Township, was accused of applying for credit cards, charging credit cards, disputing legitimate purchases and organizing the sale of fraudulently obtained goods for the enterprise. He was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree conspiracy, third-degree fraudulent use of credit cards and third-degree theft by deception.

Dave Lin, 35, of Philadelphia, was accused of applying for credit cards, charging credit cards and disputing legitimate purchases. He was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree conspiracy, third-degree fraudulent use of credit cards and third-degree of theft by deception.

Bryan Levin, 26, of Old Bridge, was accused of applying for credit cards, charging credit cards, disputing legitimate purchases and organizing the sale of fraudulently obtained goods for the enterprise. He was arrested Tuesday and charged with second-degree conspiracy, third-degree fraudulent use of credit cards and third-degree theft by deception.

Francis Munoz, 21, of Perth Amboy, who remains at large, was accused of applying for credit cards, charging credit cards and disputing legitimate purchases. He was charged with second-degree conspiracy, third-degree fraudulent use of credit cards and third-degree theft by deception.

Victor Lee, 27, of Campton, New Hampshire, was accused of applying for credit cards, charging credit cards and providing Kuo with the means to obtain a false identity. He was arrested Friday and charged with second-degree conspiracy, third-degree fraudulent use of credit cards and third-degree theft by deception.

Hayden Gaspich, 26, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, was accused of applying for credit cards, charging credit cards and disputing legitimate purchases. Gaspich was charged with second-degree conspiracy, third-degree fraudulent use of credit cards and third-degree theft by deception.

Gramiccioni said that to avoid being a victim of credit fraud, people should protect "at all costs" their key personal identifiers, such as Social Security numbers, dates of birth and your home address, that those looking to steal identities look for.

"It's always a good practice to go onto the three credit reporting agencies quarterly to see if any lines of credit have been opened in your name. If they have and you don't recognize it then dispute that because it can affect your credit adversely," Gramiccioni said. He said it's also a good investment to subscribe to services that monitor your credit.

Gramiccioni asked anyone with information about this investigation, including those who believe they may have been defrauded, to contact his office at 732-431-7160.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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