Large identity theft ring busted in NJ

September 16, 2010 2:46:21 PM PDT
One by one, they were led into the FBI building in Newark, dozens of people rounded up by special agents executing search and arrests warrants in the early morning hours.

Fifty-three people were charged, 47 were taken into custody, accused of taking part in a massive identity theft scam run out of Bergen County, reaching all across the country.

"I'm beyond shocked. This is really stunning," United States attorney Paul Fishman said.

Fishman says he's never seen any identity theft scheme this wide spread and this complex.

Authorities say the suspects used Social Security numbers from legal immigrants who worked in American territories, including Guam, to apply for driver's licenses under fake names or obtain credit cards. Several of the suspects are Korean immigrants who live in Bergen County.

The feds say the ring leader, a man named Sang-Hyun Park, would buy Social Security numbers originally given to people working in America.

His brokers would get them to what he called his customers. They would then be taught how to get a driver's license, which would allow them to open bank accounts, get credit cards and loans.

From there the spending began.

"Members of the park criminal enterprise together with the customer would use the credit cards to purchase high end goods, some of which they kept. Others were sold for cash," Fishman said.

The victims -- banks, the IRS, retailers like Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom's and Home Depot.

Fake credit cards would be used to buy Rolex watches, tons of booze and high end leased cars.

There is a connection here as well to a triple murder back in Tenafly in 2008. One of the men charged is already in custody for that murder.

"They actually were, we believe, arguing over money gained from the criminal enterprise. That lead to the homicide," Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said.

There could be a bigger problem here for the feds. False social security numbers in this case were just used for financial gain, but what if terrorists got a hold of them?

"Any loop hole or risk that allows people to get fake ids for this purpose can be a loop hole exploited to get fake ids for another purpose," Fishman said.

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