Federal authorities have just unsealed an indictment against seven defendants accused of identity theft and draining the bank accounts of their victims. According to the indictment, they stole over $1 million in funds from unsuspecting victims draining their accounts of tens of thousands of dollars at a time.
The scheme allegedly involved the purchase of stolen identifying information that included information like bank accounts, passwords, and more. That information was then passed to ID forgers who would create fake IDs for stolen identities.
In some cases, the alleged fraudsters were accused of tricking the victim’s cellphone provider into swapping in a new sim card under the control of the fraudsters. In other cases, they paid employees of cellphone companies to do that. Once they had the victim’s cellphone information, it was easy to gain access to their personal bank accounts.
Since large withdrawals are recorded by the system, the crew would create new bank accounts in the victim’s name, funnel funds into several smaller accounts, and then distribute the funds through smaller transactions that would trigger fewer alarms.
The last part of the scheme involved a runner who would make withdrawals in person at the victim’s personal bank. Since banks often use cell phones to identify customers as part of two-way authentication, having the SIM-swapped phone completed the fraud.
This is a “yikes” moment if you are a defendant because you have been charged with two crimes that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years. The ringleader is facing charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and five counts of aggravated identity theft. The identity theft charges each carry a maximum of five years, while the bank and wire fraud charges carry maximum sentences of 30 and 20 years, respectively.
However, most defendants do not end up facing the maximum sentence for fraud. That would be true even if their overall take was in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In this case, the government will tally up the total amount of money stolen, the number of victims, the number of fraudsters, and the overall sophistication of the scheme.
What is true is that by the time you have a plan with this many moving parts, you are probably smart enough to contribute to society in a legitimate way. Ultimately, that is part of the problem with a plan like this. It has a lot of moving parts, and hence, it is easier for law enforcement to find evidence of criminal activity. In this case, they have CPB, U.S. Postal, and the Treasury Department all coming together to make a case against these defendants.
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David Freidberg represents the interests of those who are facing federal charges in Cook County. Call today at (312) 560-7100 to schedule a free consultation, and our white-collar defense attorneys can begin preparing your defense immediately.