Banking and Finance Law Daily Identity theft targeting servicemembers, veterans subject of DOJ indictment
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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Identity theft targeting servicemembers, veterans subject of DOJ indictment

By Charles A. Menke, J.D.

Justice Department indictment charged five individuals with stealing and exploiting the personal identifying information of servicemembers to access bank accounts and benefits payments.

The U.S. Justice Department announced criminal charges against five individuals for coordinating an identify-theft and fraud scheme that targeted servicemembers and veterans. The charged defendants, Robert Wayne Boling Jr., Fredrick Brown, Trorice Crawford, Allan Albert Kerr, and Jongmin Seok, are alleged to have used the stolen personal identifying information (PII) of thousands of military members to access Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs benefits sites and steal millions of dollars, according to a 14-count indictment unsealed in San Antonio, Texas.

DOJ pledge to protect servicemembers. The defendants, who were based both in the Philippines and the United States, were charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identify theft based on their alleged leading roles in the theft and exploitation of victim PII to conduct the alleged scheme. "These defendants are alleged to have illegally defrauded some of America’s most honorable citizens, our elderly and disabled veterans and servicemembers," Attorney General William P. Barr said. "Through today’s action, the Department is honoring our pledge to target elder fraud schemes, especially those committed by foreign actors using sophisticated means, and to protect the veterans of our great country."

Alleged scheme. The indictment alleged that the identity-theft and fraud scheme began in 2014 when Brown, a civilian employee at a U.S. Army installation at the time, stole thousands of military members’ PII, including names, dates of birth, social security numbers, and Department of Defense identification numbers. Brown thereafter allegedly provided the stolen information to Boling, who exploited the information in various ways together with his Philippines-based co-defendants Kerr and Seok.

The DOJ further charged that Boling, Kerr, and Seok used the stolen information to compromise a Department of Defense portal designed to enable military members to access benefits information online, enabling the defendants to steal or attempt to steal millions of dollars from military members’ bank accounts. After the defendants compromised military members’ bank accounts and veterans’ benefits payments, Boling allegedly worked with Crawford to recruit individuals who would accept the deposit of stolen funds into their bank accounts and then send the funds through international wire remittance services to the defendants and others.

Agency coordination. The Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are coordinating with the Justice Department to notify and provide resources to the thousands of identified victims. The DOJ indicated that announcements will be forthcoming regarding necessary measures to be undertaken to secure military members’ information and benefits from theft and fraud.

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