A 35-year-old former help desk associate at Teledata Communications Inc. (TCI) has pleaded guilty in federal court to charges in what may be the largest identity theft case in U.S. history. New Yorker Philip Cummings appeared in federal court Tuesday to plea to wire fraud, fraud, and conspiracy charges in the case which reportedly bilked more than 30,000 victims out of more than $2.7 million.
Cummings was employed at TCI during 1999 and 2000. TCI is a company that provides computer access to credit reports for banks and other financial institutions. During his employment with TCI, Mr. Cummings used confidential passwords and codes to download credit reports from the three major credit reporting companies, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Mr. Cummings supplied a co-conspirator with the credit reports which were then sold to as many as 20 different criminals for up to $60 each, and were subsequently used to open accounts and steal money in the names of the victims. Mr. Cummings received half of the fee for the sales of the reports that he downloaded.
For the charge of wire fraud, Mr. Cummings faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million or twice the amount he gained from the illegal activity. For the charge of conspiracy, he faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the amount gained from the illegal activity. Charges against other participants in the scheme are pending. An additional participant, Hakeem Mohammed, received a sentence of 41 months after admitting to opening accounts in the name of two victims. One of the co-conspirators is working with the government as a cooperating witness, providing information about the case.
The Dow Jones Newswires report that the following companies were victimized by having their passwords and codes used in the conspiracy to obtain credit reports: Ford Motor Credit Corp.; Washington Mutual Bank; Dollar Bank in Cleveland; Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Illinois; Personal Finance Co. in Frankfort, IN; Medical Bureau in Clearwater, FL; Vintage Apartments in Houston; and Community Bank of Chaska in Chaska, MN.
At the time the case was announced, James B. Comey, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, stated, "With a few keystrokes, these men essentially picked the pockets of tens of thousands of Americans and, in the process, took their identities, stole their money and swiped their security. These charges and the potential penalties underscore the severity of the crimes. We will pursue and prosecute with equal vigor others who may be involved."