FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 5, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. – A Bergen County, N.J., woman who was a member of a large-scale and sophisticated identity theft scheme was sentenced to 41 months in prison today, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Jung-Sook Ko, a/k/a “Grace Lim,” 48, of Ridgefield, N.J., pleaded guilty on Nov. 15, 2011, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz to an Information charging her with conspiracy to unlawfully produce identification documents and to commit credit card fraud (Count One) and aggravated identity theft (Count Two). Ko was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden today in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Ko was arrested on Sept. 16, 2010, in a coordinated law enforcement takedown of 53 individuals in connection with widespread, sophisticated identity theft and fraud, including 43 other individuals charged along with Ko with participating in one large-scale criminal enterprise.
Sang-Hyun Park, a/k/a “Jimmy,” is alleged to have been the leader of a criminal organization (the Park Criminal Enterprise) headquartered in Bergen County that obtained, brokered, and sold identity documents to customers for the purpose of committing credit card fraud, bank fraud and tax fraud. The Park Criminal Enterprise obtained 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. The Park Criminal Enterprise sold these cards to its customers and then escorted the customers to various states to use them to obtain identification cards and driver’s licenses.
The Park Criminal Enterprise then engaged in the fraudulent “build up” of credit scores associated with these fraudulently obtained identities. They did so by adding the 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 identities to these existing credit card accounts, the teams increased the credit scores associated with the 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 had 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. 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.”
Ko was a customer of the Park Criminal Enterprise. She admitted that she obtained a Social Security card with the 586 prefix from the Park Criminal Enterprise and used it and other fraudulent documents to obtain an identification card and driver’s license in Illinois. Ko and her co-conspirators used these fraudulently obtained identity documents to obtain credit cards and open bank accounts. Ko admitted that in or around February 2010, she and her co-conspirators fraudulently obtained credit cards from Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Citibank, Chase, Bank of America, and HSBC, among others. Ko and her co-conspirators used these fraudulently obtained credit cards to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and merchandise.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Hayden sentenced Ko to three years of supervised release and ordered her to pay $124,598 in restitution.
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 Acting Special Agent in Charge JoAnn Zuniga, the Department of Homeland Security’s
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Andrew McLees; 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 today’s sentencing.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Barbara R. Llanes of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division and Anthony Moscato of the Office’s Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.
Defense counsel: Genesis A. Peduto Esq., North Bergen, N.J.