Puppets on a String


Marionettes are controlled from above by using wire or string to make the puppet’s body move. Without the puppeteer’s controlled guidance, the puppet would not come to life. An article published by The Morning Call tells about two men (the puppets) who were controlled by an accomplished fraudster (the puppeteer). With his guidance, they carried out numerous crimes involving identity fraud.

The identify fraud scheme was masterminded by a man with 18 prior convictions for fraud, as well as theft by deception. According to the story, his specialty was creating false identities using real names and Social Security numbers acquired from medical and court records. The mastermind created fake identification cards by using the photos of two co-conspirators, who then used the false cards to obtain credit cards or car loans. (Apparently, he also had a knack for creating fake Social Security cards, voter ID cards, utility bills and earnings statements to support their loan applications.)

At the mastermind’s instruction, the two co-conspirators used the credit cards and identification cards to buy small expensive electronic devices and gift cards from retail stores. They also signed cellphone contracts in order to obtain free smartphones. (They turned around and sold everything at a discount.) They also went on a few shopping sprees, buying and leasing luxury cars from a local Pennsylvania car dealership through loans obtained with the fake IDs.

A total of five men were involved in the identity fraud scheme. One 29-year-old co-conspirator pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud and bank fraud and received a sentenced of 29 months and six days, already served behind bars. He also received an extra six months of supervised release in a halfway house. The other 36-year-old co-defendant got an 18-month sentence in federal prison. The master puppeteer got 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. (Finally, after 18 convictions, maybe this criminal will get the idea he needs to stop.) The other two men involved in the scheme both pleaded guilty as well.

Let’s hope that these co-defendants now realize that being controlled by and taking direction from an accomplished criminal is not such a good idea. The mastermind behind the identity fraud scheme pulled their strings one time too many and now their future will be controlled by the penal system. (It looks like the puppet show is over and the ending was not exactly a happy one.)

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Valley Men Sentenced in Identity Fraud Scheme,” written by Peter Hall and published by The Morning Call on June 10, 2015.

Two Lehigh Valley men were sentenced to federal prison terms Tuesday for their roles in a wide-ranging identity theft scheme they used to fraudulently obtain credit cards, cellphones and cars.

U.S. District Judge James Knoll Gardner sentenced Randall McMahon, 29, of Easton, to 29 months and six days he has already served behind bars. In addition, McMahon must serve six months of supervised release in a halfway house. He pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy, wire fraud and bank fraud.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.