Maryland Resident Convicted for Using State Databases to Commit Identity Theft
A Frederick, Maryland man has been convicted for participating in an identity theft ring that made use of computer databases run by state governments. This individual now faces up to 22 years in prison for his role in stealing the personal information of thousands of victims.
This individual was found guilty of computer fraud, aggravated identity theft, the misuse of a Social Security number, and other conspiracy charges by the U.S. District Court of New York. The charges for aggravated identity theft hold a mandatory minimum sentence of two years, and the other charges could carry a prison sentence of up to twenty years. The six other defendants in this identity theft ring, also all residents of Frederick County, have pleaded guilty and are similarly awaiting sentencing.
In this scheme, the defendant and his co-conspirators ran an illegal business for gathering personally-identifying information and using it to trick state agencies. The criminal ring would trick state agencies into revealing the last known place of employment for thousands of individuals and then sell this data to debt collectors. This scheme resulted in more than $1 million in revenue for the identity thieves. However, the guilty verdict from the district court means that the ringleader of this scheme will now be heading to prison.
The trial lasted for five days, during which the Department of Justice attempted to show that the defendant had managed the crime ring while working in companies owned by one of the other defendants. These companies would determine where alleged debtors worked and then sell this information both directly to debt collectors and to companies that would, in turn, sell it to debt collectors.
This information would generally be sold for about $90 apiece, and over three years of work, the company had earned about $1 million off of the scheme. Evidence presented in the case showed that the group had attempted to collect information on as many as 200,000 individuals across every state. According to the Department of Justice, this resulted in selling the information for at least 12,000 individuals in 40 states.
Place of employment would be found by acquiring an individual’s personally-identifying information and then creating fake unemployment insurance accounts in the computer systems for the state workforce agency in which the victim lived. By completing it to a certain point with enough information, the application would reveal the last known place of employment for an individual. This information would then be taken and sold to debt collectors.
This, unfortunately, shows that identity theft can happen from even the most unexpected places. Thieves can and do acquire personal data from even protected government databases, so it is crucial to pay attention to any signs that your identity has been stolen and take action quickly.