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Trainee(!) dishwasher pleads guilty to $80m identity fraud

Obsessive Compulsive Theft

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A 32 year-old former trainee dishwasher (how can you be a trainee dishwasher?) has pleaded guilty to masterminding what investigators believe is the largest identity theft scam ever attempted.

Abraham Abdallah, a high-school dropout and restaurant worker, obtained the personal details of top figures in Hollywood and Wall Street (including Steven Spielberg and Microsoft's Paul Allen) to obtain fraudulent loans in their name and scam credit companies. Court documents filed in New York charge that he used this information, and details of US corporates and financial institutions, in a scam designed to net up to $80 million.

Yesterday Abdallah pleaded guilty to a 12-count indictment charging him with wire, mail and credit card fraud, identity theft and conspiracy, Reuters reports.

In his defence, Abdallah said he was not motivated by greed but by depression and an obsessive compulsive disorder.

"This case is not about money," he told U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska. "I have extensive history in this sort of thing... it always had to do with my ability to control my compulsions."

The case made news after a similar state prosecution last year which alleged that Abdallah used computers in public libraries and the phone to get credit records of numerous celebrities including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Steven Spielberg.

He was accused of obtaining illegal access to stock and bank accounts belonging to billionaire investor Warren Buffett and the accounts of George Lucas, Oprah Winfrey, Ross Perot and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

At the time of his arrest in March last year, Abdallah had 800 fraudulent credit cards and 20,000 blank credit cards.

Police searches revealed "photographs, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and addresses of more than 200 CEOs and more than 400 credit card numbers with matching addresses and personal information", Reuters reports.

Addullah alleged drew up his hitlist of celebrity victims using a list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, published by Forbes.

The former trainee dishwasher then used this purloined information to open fraudulent on-line accounts at Merrill Lynch and Fidelity Investments in the name of various high-profile businessmen. His scheme was revealed as he allegedly attempted to transfer $80 million in funds from legitimate accounts into accounts he controlled using fraudulent wire transfers and counterfeit cheques.

Fraud investigators or the victims successfully stopped or reversed the requested transfers. ®

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