Prosecutions end in 14-state identity theft ring

Published 9:38 am Friday, November 1, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — Federal authorities in Minnesota have wrapped up prosecuting members of an identity theft ring that involved more than 100 people and spanned 14 states.

The scheme is one of the largest identity theft rings caught in Minnesota. Hundreds of people, along with banks and major retailers, were victimized as the ring members stole more than $2.5 million since the plan was hatched in 2008.

The last of six ringleaders, 42-year-old Gordon Moore, was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years in prison. Moore was one of 33 people convicted in federal court; about 25 others were convicted in state court.

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Moore’s attorney argued the case was one of garden-variety crime and he should receive leniency, but U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson disagreed.

“This is, in my experience, the most complex, involved, massive conspiracy for fraud and identity theft that I have seen,” Magnuson said. “Frankly, it was the most sophisticated in my experience.”

Five other ringleaders were sentenced previously, their terms ranging from 10 to 25 years.

Under the scheme, prosecutors said, thieves carried out break-ins or thefts or got insider information from various companies to acquire private identification data. The ring leaders used special equipment to print fake checks and IDs, and used recruiters to enlist more than 100 people to cash checks and buy merchandise.

“These defendants breached (public) trust and wreaked havoc in our community and our institutions,” said Nicole Enisch, chief of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

For example, a receptionist with the Minnesota Board of Psychology stole personal information, including Social Security numbers, of 60 psychologists, and fed the data to ringleaders who had others breach the psychologists’ checking accounts.

Kara Derner, a psychologist at a community health center in St. Peter, learned her identity had been stolen when U.S. Bank called to tell her a woman had tried to deposit a check for $6,800. The woman wanted $4,000 back in cash, but the teller at the White Bear Lake branch refused, Derner said.

“The same person went to a U.S. Bank in Apple Valley. She had a check in my name and a deposit slip with all my correct information on it and a driver’s license in my name,” Derner said.

The license photo was of the woman trying to cash the check. That teller also turned her down.