The ringleader of an identity theft scheme targeting New York-based retail accounts pled guilty to identity theft and fraud charges in Manhattan federal court Friday.
According to the U.S. Attorney, Phillip Smith, 55, the head of the four-year-old ring, used fake driver’s licenses, as well as the stolen identities of over 180 people, to buy more than $1 million in merchandise and gift cards at Home Depot, Sears, Kmart, Kohl’s, Best Buy, and other retail stores.
After obtaining the stolen IDs, Smith called customer service at the retailers to verify if the victims had credit accounts. Then he acquired driver’s licenses that incorporated the victims’ personal information. Using those licenses, he charged expensive merchandise and gift cards from retailers based in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The fraud was complete once he returned the merchandise for store credits, which were eventually sold to other members of the ring for about 60 percent of their face value. Those credits were again resold for 70 percent their value, in some instances.
Officials said that over the past few weeks, Smith’s seven cohorts were charged and pled guilty. They include Winston Harris and Eugene Smith, who used stolen identities to make purchases at the retail stores; Mahmoud Abdul Hussein, Ali Abdul Hussein, and Fadal Abdul Hussein, three brothers who manufactured fake driver’s licenses out of their storefront smoke shops in Greenwich Village, and Francis Hidalgo and Randy White, who resold the illegally obtained store credits. Hidalgo also used credits to purchase building materials to convert two warehouses into marijuana grow-houses.
“For more than three years, these defendants methodically victimized hundreds of New Yorkers in an elaborate scheme to line their own pockets,” said New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman. “We will aggressively crack down on identity theft, and these guilty pleas send a message: Identity thieves will go to jail.”
Smith faces up to 22 years in prison with a mandatory minimum term of two years. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 20. The coconspirators generally face between two and 22 years, with Hidalgo facing a maximum of 55 years in jail and a minimum sentence of five years.
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye