TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Identities Stolen in Seconds

Identities Stolen in Seconds

Monty Solomon (
Sun, 24 Oct 2004 03:51:42 -0400


PAUSING in the foyer of a comfortable suburban home two days before
Halloween in 2002, Kevin Barrows, a special agent with the F.B.I.,
could not bring himself to open the front door. He and a team of
agents had just spent several hours searching every room in the house,
in New Rochelle, N.Y., but they were leaving empty-handed. Months of
investigating had led Mr. Barrows to believe that someone was
orchestrating a huge fraud from the house, yet he had not found a
single scrap of evidence.

Still, something bothered him about the furniture in one of the
bedrooms. It seemed oddly oversized. So he headed back upstairs for a
second look, and his attention focused on an expansive canopy over the
bed. When he pushed at the draping, he found that it was weighed down
with files. They contained reams of confidential financial information
about hundreds of individuals whose identities had been pilfered in an
intricate scheme that illicitly netted more than $50 million.

Two years later, the New Rochelle home has emerged as a linchpin in
what federal law enforcement authorities describe as the biggest case
of identity theft ever uncovered in the United States. The scheme was
essentially masterminded by just two people: Linus Baptiste, who lived
in the house and had contacts with a sprawling ring of Nigerian street
criminals, and Philip A. Cummings, his former brother-in-law, who
worked as a help-desk clerk at a Long Island software company. At
least 30,000 people nationwide were victimized, according to law
enforcement authorities and court documents.

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