FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 29, 2011
NEWARK, N.J. – Two more members of a sophisticated, large scale identity theft scheme pleaded guilty today, including the second-in-command of the organization, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Hyun-Jin Yang, 29, of Ridgefield, N.J., pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz to a three-count Information charging her with conspiracy to unlawfully produce identification documents and false identification documents (Count One), conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting financial institutions and bank fraud (Count Two), and aggravated identity theft (Count Three). Jung-Hyuck Seo, 39, of Palisades Park, N.J, pleaded guilty to a separate two-count Information charging him with conspiracy to unlawfully produce an identification document (Count One) and aggravated identity theft (Count Two).
Yang and Seo were arrested Sept. 16, 2010, in a coordinated law enforcement takedown of 53 individuals in connection with widespread, sophisticated identity theft and fraud, including 42 other individuals charged along with Yang and Seo with participating in one large-scale criminal enterprise. Both defendants are currently detained.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in Newark federal court:
The four defendants were involved in a criminal organization headquartered in Bergen County, N.J., led by Sang-Hyun Park, 45, a/k/a “Jimmy,” of Palisades Park, N.J., that obtained, brokered, and sold identity documents to customers. As part of the scheme, 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 Social Security cards to its customers and then escorted the customers to various states to use the cards to obtain identification cards and driver’s licenses.
The Park Criminal Enterprise 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 up the credit associated with these identities, Park and his co-conspirators directed, coached, and assisted the 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 cards related to these fraudulent transactions, the collusive merchants gave the money to Park and his co-conspirators, minus their kkang fee.
Yang was the second-in-command of the Park Criminal Enterprise and its office manager. She admitted that she and her co-conspirators obtained and sold to customers Social Security cards bearing the 586 prefix. Yang said that at Park’s direction she traveled to New York and paid cash to an illegal document broker in exchange for the Social Security cards with the 586 prefix. Yang also acknowledged that the Park Criminal Enterprise escorted hundreds of customers to various states so they could fraudulently obtain identification cards and driver’s licenses using the Social Security Cards with the 586 prefix and other fraudulent documents, including counterfeit Chinese passports. Yang admitted that on Jan. 12, 2009, she traveled from Bergen County to Illinois and used a Social Security card with the 586 prefix to obtain identification cards issued by Illinois.
Yang also admitted that the Park Criminal Enterprise paid cash to members of “build up” teams to fraudulently establish credit scores and credit histories for these 586 identities. She and her co-conspirators “busted out” credit cards and used these identities to commit bank fraud. In total, Yang defrauded various credit card companies, banks, and lenders of approximately $4 million.
Seo admitted that he obtained a Social Security card with the 586 prefix from the Park Criminal Enterprise and used the number and other fraudulent documents to obtain an identification card in Illinois. Seo and his co-conspirators used these fraudulently obtained identity documents to obtain credit cards and open bank accounts. Seo admitted that he and his co-conspirators used these fraudulently obtained credit cards to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and merchandise.
At sentencing, Yang faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison on Count One, 30 years in prison on Count Two and a two-year mandatory minimum prison term on Count Three. Seo faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison on Count One and a two-year mandatory minimum prison term on Count Two. Sentencing for Yang and Seo is currently scheduled for March 27, 2012.
As for Park and other members of the Park Criminal Enterprise, the charges and allegations contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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 Acting Special Agent in Charge Andrew M. 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 pleas.
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.
Hyun-Jin Yang: Anthony J. Iacullo Esq., Nutley, N.J.
Jung-Hyuck Seo: Arthur P. Condon Jr. Esq. Summit, N.J.