Members of an alleged fraud ring have been arraigned in New York, charged with stealing identities and obtaining $22 million of wireless phone equipment and services.
The eight-member ring stands accused of extracting customer information from the AT&T POS.com and T-Mobile iCAM databases using dealer access codes, according to a federal indictment unsealed Wednesday in Brooklyn, N.Y. federal court. The defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. Three of the accused – Gabe Beizem, 34; Marsha Montayne, 28; and Rohan Stewart, 34 – also were charged with aggravated identity theft.
Beizem and Stewart owned mobile phone dealerships in New York and Florida and were able to siphon customers' names and addresses from the databases, using the information to file false claims to replace “lost” or “stolen” cellphones, according to the indictment.
When AT&T and T-Mobile shipped the replacements, FedEx and DHL drivers who had been recruited for the scams scanned the packages into their computerized tracking systems as “delivered,” though they actually diverted the packages to the conspirators.
During a four-year period, the defendants sold the devices to unsuspecting customers, and when charges were billed to existing AT&T and T-Mobile accounts, the companies just wrote them off, according to the indictment. The losses absorbed included the cost of the devices, insurance payments, shipping costs, along with wireless service and other calling charges.
“Identity theft can ruin customers' credit and seriously disrupt their lives,” Benton Campbell, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. “The type of fraud alleged in the indictment strikes at the very heart of our modern digital economy and imposes substantial costs on commercial businesses.”
If convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, the defendants each face maximum sentences of 20 years in prison. Beizem, Stewart and Montayne also face additional mandatory two-year consecutive sentences for aggravated identity theft.