A four-year-old identity theft ring that allegedly amassed more than $1 million in merchandise, gift cards and store credits from big-box retailers and department stores was busted Thursday, according to the Manhattan U.S. attorney.
This story first appeared in the January 13, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Defendants Phillip Smith, Melissa Morton, Mahmoud Abdul Hussein, Ali Abdul Hussein, Fadal Abdul Hussein, Francis Hidalgo and Randy White allegedly stole the identities of more than 180 New Yorkers with active store accounts at Home Depot, Sears, Kmart, Kohl’s and other retailers.
Since its inception in 2008, the ring charged merchandise and gift cards to credit accounts tied to the pilfered identities.
They then resold their purchases for a profit. In order to facilitate the hoax, the group made driver’s licenses using the stolen identify information of the legitimate cardholders, U.S. attorney Preet Bharara said.
“Identity theft results in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to unsuspecting victims and businesses, and victims may have to spend countless hours just to get their lives back in order,” Bharara noted. “As today’s arrests demonstrate, we hold no quarter for the alleged perpetrators of these crimes and will work with our state and federal law enforcement partners to bring them to justice.”
Filed in the Southern District of New York, the complaint charges Smith, Morton, Hildalgo and White with conspiracy to commit access device fraud, which carries a maximum term of five years in prison. Smith, Morton, Mahmoud Abdul Hussein, Ali Abdul Hussein and Fadal Abdul Hussein are charged with a separate conspiracy to produce fake driver’s licenses, which carries a maximum term of 15 years in jail. Smith and Morton were also charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory two-year sentence if convicted.
An arraignment date has not yet been disclosed.