Newport police have arrested a New York man and charged him with forgery and fraud for his role in what they say is a multistate crime ring specializing in identity theft.

Police Chief Leonard Macdaid said Mark Pignatello, 54, of Yonkers, New York, was arrested and charged with forgery, a Class C felony, and with misuse of identification, a misdemeanor. 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).”

Earlier Wednesday, Macdaid said that Pignatello had 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 using their own pictures 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 with three felonies in Maine, one from Newport police and one each from Bangor and Orono. Macdaid said other members of the ring wait outside the bank in a car 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 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 multistate crime ring, he could face additional federal interstate charges.

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

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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