A New Jersey scam artist was sentenced to 12 years ain prison this week after admitting to being the mastermind behind a sophisticated fraud system that used identity theft, credit card fraud and other nefarious means to obtain $4 million, the FBI said.
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Sang-Hyun Park, "Jimmy," Park defrauded various credit card companies, banks, and lenders out of $4 million. He and his 54 conspirators [many of whom are already in jail, the FBI said] also claimed more than $182,000 in tax refunds from the IRS through the filing of false and fictitious tax returns and accompanying documents. In addition to the prison term, Park got five years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $4,774,116. He will also be deported upon his release from prison.
According to the FBI this is how the scam worked:
- Park and his conspirators sold so-called 586 Social Security cards for a fee, promising to help customers use the cards to get other forms of identification, including driver's licenses. Social Security cards with the 596 prefix were issued by the United States to individuals, usually from China, employed in American territories such as American Samoa, Guam, and Saipan.
- With new identities in place, Park helped customers establish credit through a lengthy process. One of the methods was temporarily adding a new identity to an existing credit card account whose owner had excellent credit. The owners of the legitimate accounts were paid a fee for this service.
- After building the credit scores associated with the new identities-and detaching them from the legitimate accounts-Park helped customers obtain credit cards and open bank accounts.
- The scammers then proceeded to "bust out" their credit cards, charging as much as $30,000 per month. "With an impeccable credit history," the FBI explained, "none of the financial institutions batted an eye. Why would they?"
- When it came time to pay monthly bills, the scammers made online or telephone payments using accounts that had no money behind them-knowing that the banks and retail outlets could take several days to figure out that the payments were bogus. During that period, they charged even more items.
"With valid credentials and high credit scores, the 586 card owners could open credit accounts everywhere-banks, retail stores, car dealerships," said Special Agent Theresa Fanelli, another member of the investigative team. "The sky was the limit."
The FBI's Park investigation began as a result of a triple homicide in New Jersey in 2008. A Bergen County Police Department detective working the murder case of a Korean family found multiple sets of driver's licenses and identities at the crime scene. He suspected identity fraud and brought that information to the FBI. The murder case was solved, and the detective continued to play a vital role in the fraud investigation.
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