News and Press Releases

Identity Theif Pleads Guilty To Fraud And Obstruction Charges

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 22, 2007

Brooklyn resident faces mandatory prison term for interstate scheme

Greensboro, NC – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina announces that, on August 21, 2007, Clifford Laihben, age 34, of Brooklyn, New York, pleaded guilty in federal court to all seven counts of a superseding indictment that charged him with conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, possessing and uttering counterfeit American Express checks, possessing implements for manufacturing counterfeit American Express checks, obstructing justice, and tampering with a witness. Sentencing was set for December 7, 2007, in Greensboro. Laihben faces up to five years in prison on the conspiracy count, a mandatory minimum prison term of two years on the aggravated identity theft charge that must run at the expiration of any other prison sentence, and up to ten years in prison on each of the remaining counts. The case began on August 15, 2006, when Winston-Salem Police Officers seized more than $20,000 in counterfeit American Express checks and three counterfeit credit cards encoded with stolen credit card data from a rental car occupied by Laihben and Brandy Dora Green, also of Brooklyn. Special Agents from the Greensboro Resident Agency of the United States Secret Service joined the investigation that day and determined that Laihben and/or Green had been arrested on similar fraud-related charges in Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, and Virginia during 2005 and 2006.

A federal grand jury investigation was commenced. Green subsequently was indicted by that grand jury and pleaded guilty to possessing counterfeit American Express checks and making false material statements to a federal agent. She received a three-year federal prison sentence. Further investigation revealed that Laihben manufactured counterfeit credit cards, counterfeit American Express checks, and counterfeit driver’s licenses, and that he recruited young women to use the counterfeit items to obtain merchandise and cash from unsuspecting businesses throughout the United States. When one of the young women was subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in the fall of 2006, Laihben and another co-conspirator directed her to lie about his actions.

On December 9, 2006, while the federal investigation was continuing and while he was released on bail from state charges related to the August 15 incident in Winston-Salem, Laihben was arrested again in High Bridge, New Jersey, when the vehicle in which he and a female passenger were traveling was found by officers of the High Bridge Borough Police Department and the Town of Clinton Police Department to contain thousands of dollars in counterfeit American Express checks and items obtained by fraud in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, earlier that day. Laihben thereafter was arrested and detained on federal charges.

The United States Secret Service was assisted in the investigation of this case by numerous law enforcement offices around the country, including the Winston-Salem Police Department, the High Bridge Borough (N.J.) Police Department, the Town of Clinton (N.J.) Police Department, the Hunterdon County (N.J.) Prosecutor’s Office, the Lancaster (Pa.) Police Department, the Deptford Township (N.J.) Police Department, the Special Protective Service – Reston, Virginia, the Vernon (Ct.) Police Department, and the Winter Park (Fl.) Police Department.

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