Authored by Jon Mercer in Identity Theft
Published on 12-06-2008
This week authorities announced several arrests and convictions in connection with a worldwide identity theft ring that is responsible for stealing millions of dollars in a scam that hijacked home-equity lines of credit issued to thousands of consumers. State and Federal law enforcement officials arrested four men in connection with a combined high-tech/ old fashioned con game that drained home-equity lines.
The four men (and four others arrested earlier this year) tricked several banks and credit unions into wiring more than $2.5 million from home-equity lines into accounts in Canada, China, Japan, Vietnam and South Korea. This information was released as documents were unsealed in New Jersey’s U.S. District Court this week.
Three of the offenders pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on November,20. The charges included conspiracy to commit bank fraud as well as other offenses. According to officials, the group stole at least $10 million with their home-equity scam.
In what the FBI calls an “emerging scheme” against the already hurting real estate and mortgage market, thieves use publicly available internet databases and property deeds and mortgages to access information about consumers with untapped home-equity lines of credit. The thieves then target the consumers who have good credit and large, untapped credit lines.
The defendants and co-conspirators used fee-based Web databases to find documents containing names, birth dates and social security numbers of consumers with large balances in home-equity credit accounts according to the Federal Governments criminal complaint. The government also alleges that the group used other online sources to access common security questions, like the victim’s mother’s maiden name and to order credit reports in the victim’s name to verify account balances. Authorities say the defendants would then phone the victim’s bank or credit union and ask them to wire a large amount of money to banks in Asia or Canada.
Allegedly the defendants would use caller-ID spoofing services to transfer the victims phone number to a pre-paid cell phone so when the banks called to verify the transfer they would be one step ahead of them. The defendants also allegedly used PC wireless cards to hide their location and identity online.
Arrested Monday were Derrick Polk,45, of Los Angeles; Oludola Akinmola, 37, and Oladji Craig, 39, both of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Oluwajide Ogunbiyi, 32, of Springfield, Ill. All are facing charges of wire fraud as well as conspiracy to defraud. The attorney’s for the defendants had no comment when questioned about the Monday arrests.