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U.S. Uncovers Theft of 30,000 Identities, Millions of Dollars

By Anthony M. DeStefano
NEWSDAY -- NEW YORK

In a nightmare case for American consumers, federal investigators said Monday they uncovered the largest identity theft ring ever seen, which victimized more than 30,000 people and led to millions of dollars in losses.

The scam allegedly involved a former employee at a Long Island software company who, with nothing more than a laptop computer and some passwords, worked with New York street criminals to steal credit and financial information of victims around the country.

“With a few keystrokes, these men essentially picked the pockets of tens of thousands of Americans,” U.S. Attorney James B. Comey said at a Manhattan news conference.

Three men, Comey said, have been charged, and investigators are pursuing leads to more than 20 suspected accomplices.

The scheme involved the fraudulent accessing of the computer systems of the three major credit reporting companies -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion -- Comey said.

Philip Cummings, 33, a former employee of Teledata Communications Inc. of Bay Shore, N.Y., was arrested Monday on charges that over a two-year period he used unique client passwords assigned to Ford Motor Credit Corp. and some banks, which allowed him to access credit bureau files and then sell the information to his cohorts.

The company provides software that allows clients to obtain credit histories of consumers from credit reporting agencies. Cummings worked at Teledata’s “help desk” and had access to computer passwords of clients like Ford, which provided access to the credit bureau files, prosecutors said.

Two other men, Linus Baptiste and Hakeem Mohammed, were charged earlier as the investigation gathered steam over the last eight months. Mohammed, 37, a Nigerian national, pleaded guilty last month to related charges; Baptiste was arrested Oct. 29, Comey said.