The last ringleader of an identity-theft crime ring that centered around the Twin Cities has been sentenced. The man convicted of theft is believed to be the last in a criminal web involving 100 people in more than 14 states. The perpetrators were able to steal over $2.5 million by using insider information, as well as by breaking into homes, cars and businesses to steal anything that contained personal financial information. The number of victims reached into the hundreds, and the US District judge that presided over the convict’s sentencing claimed that it was the most sophisticated and complex identity theft operation he had ever seen.
One of the most prevalent schemes involved the use of phony checks and fake IDs to buy expensive merchandise such as jewelry and electronics. The con artists would then return the merchandise for cash. The leaders of the crime ring apparently had specialized software and equipment that could produce fake IDs and checks based on personal information that their underlings had gathered or from documents that were stolen. The ringleaders enlisted about 10 people to recruit others into the scheme, eventually leading to over 100 people who bought merchandise or cashed fake checks. The leaders would often wait in a car while other members of the crime ring would commit their fraudulent acts at department stores or banks. They would then split the cash and part ways.
One of the more surprising things about this case involves the different types of people that were recruited into the scheme. One person was a Minnesota Board of Psychology receptionist that provided the criminals with many Social Security numbers. Other people sucked into the scheme included workers at Sonus, Wells Fargo, Pearson and St. Paul Postal Credit Union. The scam even enveloped family and friends such as a father and his two sons, all of which received jail time.
Anyone who ends up involved with financial crimes or learns of a family member that’s been enveloped in a scheme such as this should seek legal help to ensure their rights are protected throughout the court process.
Source: startribune.com, “25-year prison sentence concludes sprawling ID-theft case” Randy Furst, Oct. 30, 2013