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.
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
Not only does #TheProfit return to CNBC tonight, but @marcuslemonis has launched @shopmarcus, a new shopping and lifestyle retail experience in Aspen and Chicago, with more locations to come. The retail stores offer in-store stylists and a variety of contemporary womenswear selections.
“It’s life, I’m going to face it,” @mingxi11 sighed. “I fell, but you know, I think the most important thing is that I get back up. I had the love, the help from my sister — the girl next to me Gizele [Oliveira] — she’s so nice. When I went backstage everybody was trying to comfort me like ‘Oh Ming, it’s OK.’ I’m really, really touched. I think it’s them who gave me the courage to go back on stage for the finale,” Xi told WWD of her fall at the @victoriassecret fashion show. (📷: David Fisher) #wwdfashion #vsfashionshow #victoriassecret
@louisvuitton tapped @therealpeterlindbergh for its latest city-centric photo book, which is part of a series called Fashion Eye. The primarily black and white book captures the spirit of Berlin in 57 images shot between 1989 and 2019. “Berlin is an inspiration for me, more than a city. I mean @millajovovich is simply Berlin!” said Lindbergh. #wwdfashion
“You know, I think audiences expect a certain performance so I have to deliver to them what they’re expecting to a certain degree. But I’m also a different actor and a different person, I have my own spin on the character,” says @noahegalvin of his takeover of the leading role in “Dear Evan Hansen” following the departure of @bensplatt, who originated the role. Read WWD’s interview with the 23-year-old actor on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
For pre-fall 2018, @etro created richly-colored wonderland, using tapestries, textiles and wallpapers from the Eastern world at large. The line featured floral and graphic prints and jacquard motifs, like this two-piece look featured here. #wwdfashion (📷: Giovanna Pavesi)
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
“I just wanted to create this fully rounded character, but I do think what excited me most was just the opportunity to give a group of people representation that I feel needs it. I like to do characters in projects that stand for something and Karolina definitely does, so that was really exciting to me,” @ginnygardner says of her new role in @hulu’s “The Runaways.” Gardner plays Karolina Dean, a queer superhero, which is a rarity for @marvel. Read more about Gardner’s character on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @dandoperalski)