Newport police have arrested a New York man on forgery and fraud charges in what the police chief said is a multi-state crime ring involving identification theft.

Police Chief Leonard Macdaid said Mark Pignatello, 54, of Yonkers, New York, was arrested and charged by his department with forgery, a class C felony, and with misuse of identification, a misdemeanor charge. Pignatello was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon as he allegedly attempted to cash a fraudulent check at a Newport bank.

“What’s been going on is that he’s part of a crime ring that covers six states — Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York and Connecticut,” Macdaid said Thursday. “They have stolen thousands and thousands of dollars from (a bank).”

Macdaid said earlier in the day Wednesday that Pignatello allegedly has attempted to cash a check for about $3,000 in Bangor, but was denied service. He later successfully cashed a check in Orono.

“Then he came down here and he tried to cash a $3,000 check, and the tellers alerted us and we came over and we arrested him,” he said.

Macdaid said the group, including Pignatello, is stealing mail and identification to make up false driver’s licenses with all of the stolen information, then adding their own picture to the license to use as identification to cash checks.

“It’s very sophisticated,” Macdaid said. “They have this guy’s picture and they make up a fake check and they go to the bank and they draw off your account, and they did it many, many times. They were chasing them in New Hampshire, and before that they were in Vermont and Connecticut.”

Macdaid said Pignatello has been charged in total with three felonies in Maine, one from Newport police and one each from Bangor and Orono. Macdaid said others allegedly were involved with Pignatello — they come in carloads, he said — and the others wait outside the bank for a certain amount of time and if that time expires, they leave.

“They were gone by the time we got there,” he said.

Federal officials, including the U.S. Secret Service and the bank’s fraud division, also are involved in the investigation, Macdaid said. If investigators determine that Pignatello was involved in a multi-state crime ring, he could face additional federal interstate charges.

Pignatello remained held Thursday at the Penobscot County Jail in Bangor in lieu of $10,000 cash bail, according to a jail intake worker. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance at 1 p.m. Friday at the Penobscot Judicial Center by video from the jail.

According to the website Public Court Records, Pignatello has previous charges of criminal possession of stolen property and three counts of robbery.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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