News and Press Releases

Three plead guilty to roles in large-scale identity theft ring



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 12, 2011


 

NEWARK, N.J. – Three more individuals have admitted their roles in a large-scale, sophisticated identity theft scheme that led to dozens of arrests last fall, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Jong-Hoon Kim, 50, of Ridgefield, N.J., pleaded guilty today to a three-count Information charging him with unlawfully producing identification documents, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Sung-Rok Joh, 53, of Palisades Park, N.J., pleaded guilty on July 7, 2011, to an Information charging him with conspiracy to unlawfully produce a counterfeit identification document and commit credit card fraud.

In-Sook Lee, 33, of Palisades Park, N.J., pleaded guilty on June 29, 2011, to an Information charging her with conspiracy to unlawfully produce a counterfeit identification document and commit credit card fraud. All three defendants have entered their guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden in Newark federal court.

Kim and Joh were arrested on September 16, 2010, in a coordinated law enforcement takedown of 53 individuals in connection with widespread, sophisticated identity theft and fraud. Lee turned herself in to the authorities in October 2010.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Kim, Joh and Lee conspired with Sang-Hyun Park, a/k/a “Jimmy,” and others to obtain social security cards beginning with the prefix “586.” Social security cards with that prefix were issued by the United States to individuals, usually from China, who were employed in American territories, such as American Samoa, Guam, and Saipan. Park is alleged to have been the leader of a criminal organization headquartered in Bergen County, N.J., that obtained, brokered, and sold identity documents to customers for the purpose of committing credit card fraud, bank fraud, tax fraud, and other crimes.

The Park Criminal Enterprise engaged in the fraudulent “build up” of credit scores associated with the Chinese identities. They did so by adding the Chinese identity as an authorized user to the credit card accounts of various co-conspirators who received a fee for this service – members of the enterprise’s credit build up teams. By attaching the Chinese identities to these existing credit card accounts, the teams increased the credit scores associated with the Chinese identities to between 700 and 800. The members of the build up teams knew neither the real person to whom the identity belonged nor virtually any of the customers who purchased the identities.

After building the credit associated with these identities, Park and his co-conspirators directed, coached, and assisted his customers to open bank accounts and obtain credit cards. Park and his co-conspirators then used these accounts and credit cards to commit fraud. In particular, Park relied on several collusive merchants who possessed credit card processing, or swipe, machines. For a fee, known as a “kkang fee,” these collusive merchants charged the fraudulently obtained credit cards, although no transaction took place. After receiving the money into their merchant accounts from the credit card related to these fraudulent transactions, the collusive merchants gave the money to Park and his co-conspirators, minus their “kkang fee.”

On April 28, 2008, Kim and other members of the Park Criminal Enterprise traveled from Bergen County to Chicago. Thereafter, Kim used “586” social security numbers in the names of individuals with the initials “Z.A.” and “R.C.,” and other false documents to fraudulently obtain Illinois photo identification cards in the names of those individuals. Kim made another trip to Chicago on October 7, 2008, and using the same fraudulent documents, obtained an Illinois driver’s license in the name of the individual with the initials “Z.A.” Kim made a third trip to Chicago on November 11, 2008, and used a “586” social security number in the name of an individual with the initials “C.S.H.” and other false documents to fraudulently obtain another driver’s license in the name of C.S.H. After returning to Bergen County with the identification cards in his possession, Kim used them and the identities of Z.A., R.C. and C.S.H. to open bank accounts or apply for and obtain credit cards from various banks and stores. Through this scheme, Kim and his co-conspirators fraudulently obtained in excess of $100,000 in merchandise and cash.

In addition, Kim was a collusive merchant for the Park Criminal Enterprise. Kim used the Z.A. identity to open a merchant account in the name of Red Coco Int’l and the R.C. identity to establish a merchant account in the name of Nabis Club. Red Coco Int’l and Nabis Club were two fictitious companies that neither sold products nor provided any services. After obtaining the credit card processing machines for these fictitious companies, Park and other members of the Park Criminal Enterprise provided Kim with fraudulently obtained credit cards belonging to customers of the enterprise. Kim charged these credit cards and provided portions of the cash back to Park and his co-conspirators.

At his hearing, Joh admitted that he was a customer of the Park Criminal Enterprise. Joh purchased a “586” social security card in the name of an individual with the initials “L.Z.” from co-conspirator Park and used it to fraudulently obtain an Illinois photo identification card in the name L.Z. Thereafter, Joh used this fraudulently obtained identity to apply for and obtain credit cards from various banks and stores. Through this scheme, Joh and his co-conspirators fraudulently obtained in excess of $79,000 in merchandise and cash.

At her hearing, Lee admitted that she was a customer of the Park Criminal Enterprise. Lee purchased a “586” social security card in the name of an individual with the initials “P.F.” from co-conspirator Park and used it to fraudulently obtain an Illinois driver’s license in the name P.F. Thereafter, Lee used this fraudulently obtained identity to apply for and obtain credit cards and loans from various banks and stores. Through this scheme, Lee and her co-conspirators fraudulently obtained in excess of $16,000 in merchandise and cash.

At sentencing, Kim faces a maximum potential penalty of 15 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, on the unlawful production of an identity document charge (Count One); a mandatory minimum of two years in prison on the aggravated identity theft charge (Count Two); and a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the pecuniary gain or victim loss from the offense on the conspiracy to commit wire fraud charge (Count Three). Sentencing for Kim is scheduled for October 17, 2011.

At sentencing, Joh and Lee each face a maximum potential penalty on the conspiracy charge of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the pecuniary gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing for Joh is scheduled for October 17, 2011. Sentencing for Lee is scheduled for October 11, 2011.

Kim and Lee were detained pending sentencing. Joh was released on a $250,000 bond.

U.S. Attorney Fishman praised special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special
Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward in Newark; IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction
of Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff; the Department of Homeland Security’s
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Peter T. Edge; and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor John L. Molinelli and the Office’s Chief of Detectives Steven Cucciniello, for their work leading to the guilty pleas.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barbara R. Llanes of the U.S. Attorney’s Office General Crimes Unit and Anthony Moscato of the Office’s Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.

As for Park and other members of the Park Criminal Enterprise with pending charges, the charges and allegations contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

11-274                                                                                          

Defense counsel:

Kim: Richard Verde Esq., West Caldwell, N.J.
Joh: Michele Adubato Esq., Bayonne, N.J.
Lee: Sung Rim Esq., Ft. Lee, N.J.

Joh, Sung-Rok Information
Kim, Jong-Hoon Information
Lee, In-Sook Information

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