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Financial Fraud Law

‘Crime Superstore’ Defrauded Banks, Retailers, and Even the IRS, Feds Say

 They hijacked identities on the other side of the globe … faked drivers’ licenses and other documents … built bogus credit histories and boosted the scores in clever ways … then used it all to open bank accounts and credit lines they could loot at will. 

In the end, they created what Newark Special FBI Agent in Charge Mike Ward called a “crime superstore,” a sophisticated way to rob financial institutions, retailers, car leasing companies, and even the IRS out of millions of dollars. It’s quite an interesting story as related by federal prosecutors, stemming from a multi-agency investigation that made use of cooperating witnesses and an undercover federal agent, as well as court-authorized wiretaps, to record incriminating conversations among members of the alleged crime ring and others.
 
The government says that it all came crashing down in September 2010, when 43 members of the alleged criminal ring were charged in this complex scheme. Another 10 individuals were charged for various related offenses at the same time during a coordinated takedown. And now, the leader of the band of thieves—San-Hyun Park, known to his criminal colleagues as “Jimmy”—has pleaded guilty in federal court in Newark.
 
According to prosecutors, the Park criminal enterprise started by stealing Social Security numbers from unsuspecting individuals—usually from China—who were employed in American territories in Asia like Saipan, Guam, and the Philippines. They then sold these identities to its customers in the U.S. for $5,000 to $7,000. Although the stolen identities were Chinese, the vast majority of Park’s customers were Korean-Americans. The ring would use the phony Social Security numbers to obtain authentic driver’s licenses, identification cards, and other identity documents from various states … or manufacture counterfeit licenses and other documentation.
 
Prosecutors say that Park’s organization, based in Bergen County, New Jersey, was subdivided into different cells, each with a unique role. First, there were the customers who paid Park and his co-conspirators for fake identity documents. Then, there were the brokers, suppliers, and manufacturers of the phony identity documents—like Social Security cards, immigration documents, and driver’s licenses. A third group included merchants who colluded with the organization by knowingly swiping phony credit cards in return for a fee called a “kkang.” The credit card buildup teams made up the fourth group, fraudulently inflating credit scores to help open the bank and credit accounts.
 
According to the government, the buildup teams would take one of the stolen Social Security numbers—and the Chinese identity attached to it—and add that person’s name as an authorized user to other co-conspirators’ credit card accounts. These co-conspirators, who knew their accounts were being used to commit fraud, received a fee for their service.
 
The government says that after the credit buildup was completed, the Park criminal enterprise conspired with its customers to use the fraudulent identities to apply for checking accounts, bank and retail credit cards, debit cards, lines of credit, and loans. Members of the criminal conspiracy used their sizeable proceeds to live large, buying such luxury items as fancy cars, expensive liquor, and designer shoes.
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