Monday, November 24, 2008

Russian Ringleader of Major ID Theft Ring Sentenced - - 20 Nov 2008

MANHATTAN—The ringleader of an identity theft ring has been sentenced on his guilty plea to stealing $1.5 million and attempting to steal another $10.7 million from wealthy Americans.

Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau said that 25-year-old Igor Klopov was sentenced Wednesday to 3 ½ to 10 ½ years in state prison. Klopov, a 24-year-old Russian with an expertise in mining the Internet to obtain personal information about potential victims, was able to gain information easily about the value of property, size of outstanding mortgages and existing lines of credit.

As ringleader of the identity theft ring, Morgenthau said Klopov generally targeted the home equity line of credit (HELOC) accounts of people who owned expensive properties and had large lines of credit.

Among the victims were a Silicon Valley couple, the head of a major credit reporting agency, and a wealthy Texas businessman. Morgenthau said Klopov found many of his victims through the Forbes 400 list. Many of the victims lived in states – such as Texas and California – where property deed information is available online.

Klopov enlisted four other individuals to join the ring: Westley Watson, 38, of Detroit, Mich., Lee Monopoli, 42, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., James Dalton, 31, of Conroe, Texas, and Richard Hoskins, 30, of London, Ky., Morgenthau said.

Prosecutors say Watson was hired by Klopov to create high-quality counterfeit identification bearing the victims’ information but using co-conspirators photographs.

Watson also allegedly also forged documents that Monopoli and other co-conspirators would need in order to steal funds from the identity theft victims’ financial institutions.

Prosecutors said Monopoli and co-conspirators would then visit the victims’ banking institutions and attempt to withdraw money from their accounts.

Dalton allegedly assisted Watson by receiving and forwarding certain victim information to be used in connection with the identity theft ring. Hoskins used his bank account to receive funds that were fraudulently obtained from victims and then transfer funds to Klopov.

Watson pleaded guilty on Oct. 2, to first degree attempted grand larceny, first degree identity theft and fourth degree conspiracy. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 17.

The other three defendants have each pleaded guilty and have been sentenced. Monopoli pleaded guilty on Jan. 31, to first degree attempted grand larceny, first degree identity theft and fourth degree conspiracy and was sentenced to six months in jail.

Hoskins pleaded guilty on Jan. 9 to second degree grand larceny, first degree identity theft and fourth degree conspiracy, and was sentenced to one year in jail. Dalton pleaded guilty on Jan. 30 to fifth degree conspiracy and was sentenced to a conditional discharge.

The year-long investigation – a joint effort by the United States Secret Service, the New York City Police Department and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Identity Theft Unit – began in 2006 when an undercover investigator with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Identity Theft Unit assumed the online identity of a Klopov accomplice and pursued an on-line correspondence with Klopov.

Klopov was arrested in May after he came to New York in an effort to claim $7 million in gold that he thought had been purchased with money stolen from one of his victims.

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