3 charged in ID theft case with more than 30,000 victims

Associated Press

Nov. 25, 2002 12:05 PM

NEW YORK - Federal authorities charged three men with orchestrating a huge identity-theft scheme in which credit information was allegedly stolen from more than 30,000 victims.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney James Comey said the arrests announced Monday mark the largest identity theft case in U.S. history, with initial losses pegged at $2.7 million and growing.

"With a few keystrokes, these men essentially picked the pockets of tens of thousands of Americans and, in the process, took their identities, stole their money and swiped their security," Comey said.

More than 15,000 credit reports were stolen using passwords belonging to Ford Motor Credit Corp. to access information from Experian, a commercial credit history bureau, officials said. Credit reports also were stolen from other companies, authorities said.

Authorities say the scheme began about three years ago when Philip Cummings, a help-desk worker at a computer software company, agreed to give an unidentified co-conspirator the passwords and codes for downloading consumer credit reports.

The FBI also charged Linus Baptiste and Hakeem Mohammed with roles in the far-flung fraud.

Cummings was paid roughly $30 for each report, and the information was then passed on to at least 20 individuals who then set out to make money from the stolen information.

Victims have reported losing money from their bank accounts, seeing their credit cards hit with unauthorized charges, and having their identities assumed by strangers.

Baptiste allegedly downloaded hundreds of credit reports with Cummings' access passwords. Mohammed has pleaded guilty to mail fraud for making changes to individual credit accounts

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