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Tacoma Man Used Stolen Identities in Internet Fraud For About $250,000 in Watches, Art, Sports Paraphernalia, Cell phones and Other Expensive Consumer Items

February 5, 2008

STEPHEN SMITH, 25, of Tacoma, Washington plead guilty in US District Court in Tacoma for Wire Fraud and Aggravated Identity theft. The Wire Fraud conviction carries a maximum sentence of 30 years of imprisonment and the Aggravated Identity Theft requires a mandatory minimum of 2 years. Sentencing is scheduled for May 9, 2008 before Judge Benjamin Settle.

Between August and November 2007, SMITH engaged in a scheme using stolen identification information to order a large volume of Rolex and Panieri watches, sports paraphernalia, Gucci hand bags, art, cell phones and auto parts valued at about $250,000. He ordered the expensive consumer goods on-line through web-based vendors located in New York, California, Oregon and Illinois. He had the products shipped to a variety of locations throughout Tacoma and Puyallup where he could retrieve the packages. He used some of the items, sold some, pawned some and traded some for drugs.

The principal source of the stolen identity information was credit card slips taken by an employee and friend of SMITH’s at the Hampton Inn in Tukwila, Washington. That information included American Express Card numbers and personal information which allowed Smith to generate orders in the names of about 14 individuals. Those victims have been contacted and the fraudulent charges have been borne by American Express and the respective vendors of the merchandise. A few items were recovered. In all SMITH ordered about 70 items valued at about $250,000, about $119,000 of which were shipped before his scheme was discovered and shut down. Additionally, SMITH had selected several identities for whom he was gathering information and applying for new credit cards as a another technique to continue the fraud.

The case was investigated by Special Agents Dana Epperson and Chris Pierce of the United States Secret Service, and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kurt Hermanns.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office at 206-553-4110.

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