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Report: Identity Theft Ring Leader Pleads Guilty

(file / credit: clipart.com)

Gavel (file/credit: clipart.com)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The alleged leader of an identity theft ring pleaded guilty to his role in the operation late last week in Manhattan U.S. District Court, according to a published report.

Phillip Smith, 55, pleaded guilty on Friday, according to the Village Voice. He faces a maximum sentence of 22 years in prison after his guilty plea to three counts of conspiracies to commit access device fraud and to produce false identification documents, and aggravated identity theft, the newspaper reported.

Smith and six other defendants were accused by prosecutors of running an identity theft scheme that netted more than $1 million in products and gift cards by tapping consumer charge accounts in four states.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has accused the suspects of using the stolen information — including names and Social Security numbers — to make fake driver’s licenses in a Greenwich Village smoke shop in Manhattan to impersonate consumers with credit at major retail stores.

The defendants were accused of hijacking over 180 customer’s accounts at Home Depot, Sears, Kmart and Kohl’s to get merchandise and gift cards which they later sold for a profit.

“These individuals systematically victimized over 180 New Yorkers in an elaborate scheme to line their own pockets,” said Schneiderman.

In addition to Smith, the defendants included Melissa Morton, 24, who allegedly impersonated female identity theft victims at major stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut; Mahmoud Abdul Hussein, 27, Ali Abdul Hussein, 33, and Fadal Abdul Hussein, 22, – three brothers who allegedly manufactured fake driver’s licenses; and Francis Hidalgo, 44, and Randy White, 56, who are alleged to have resold the illegally obtained store credits or used them to buy material for their businesses.

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(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)