BOSTON – A former contractor to the United States Postal Service was sentenced today for stealing credit cards from a mail-sorting facility while on the job, and then using the credit cards to commit fraud.
Gerald K. Acholonu, 33, of Braintree, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard G. Stearns to four years and three months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, forfeiture, and restitution of $183,992 to the credit card company. In March 2013, Acholonu pleaded guilty to credit card fraud and stealing mail.
From August 2010 through May 2011, Acholonu worked for a contractor that sorted mail for the U.S. Postal system. In late April 2011, another employee spotted Acholonu leaving his employer’s restroom with a tray of U.S. mail. Investigators then searched Acholonu’s trash at home and found 11 stolen Discover credit cards and other evidence that he had used or was planning to use the Discover customers’ identities by setting up telephone accounts in their names. Further investigation proved that Acholonu was involved with theft of almost 400 other Discover credit cards. Using these cards, Acholonu and others tried to ring up nearly $430,000 in fraudulent transactions, about $184,000 of which were successful.
When agents arrested Acholonu, they found further evidence of identity theft and thus obtained a warrant to search his apartment. That search turned up USB thumb-drives that contained information associated with 21 victims of identity fraud who were unassociated with the Discover fraud. This information included the new victims’ true names, personal identifying information, credit card numbers, and credit reports in their names. It also included digital images of Acholonu’s Social Security card and driver’s license, both modified to remove his own information, such as his name or picture, apparently with the intent of modifying those documents further for other identities. Acholonu’s laptop computer itself had been purchased under the name of another identity theft victim who had experienced approximately $30,000 in fraud against his credit and whose name and other personal identifying information were found handwritten on a piece of paper at Acholonu’s residence.
U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz; Kevin Niland, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and Rafael Medina, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Area Office, made the announcement today. The case was prosecuted Scott L. Garland and Eric Christofferson, respectively of Ortiz's Cybercrimes and Economic Crimes Units.