To date, nine individuals have been arrested as part of this investigation and three pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
According to court documents, the defendants and other co-conspirators used fee-based web databases to search for potential victims with large balances in home equity line of credit (HELOC) accounts. This information included name, address, date of birth, and social security number. Once the conspirators identified a victim they used other online databases to obtain information commonly used in security questions, such as the victim’s mother’s maiden name. The conspirators then obtained credit reports on the victims in order to verify personal information and account balances.
Armed with the victim’s personal information, the conspirators called the victim’s financial institution, impersonated the victim, and transferred the majority of the available money from the HELOC account into an account from which a wire transfer could be sent. The conspirators would then wire transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars to overseas accounts controlled by members of the conspiracy. The conspirators used caller-ID spoofing services, prepaid cell phones and PC wireless cards, and transferred victims’ home telephone numbers in order to impersonate the victim and avoid identifying themselves.
Once money arrived in a foreign bank, normally in Asia, a money mule who had opened the account for this purpose withdrew the money in cash. The money mule would keep a portion and hand the rest to a courier outside of the bank. The courier would gather several wire transfers from various money mules and crate the money up and send it to the head of the group in Asia. This person would then send wire transfers to various members of the conspiracy, including a $51million wire transfer sent earlier this year.