March 21, 2001, 10:55 AM — BOSTON -- A 32-year-old man from Brooklyn, New York, is alleged to have to used the Internet to open fraudulent brokerage accounts and steal millions of dollars from some of the most wealthy individuals in the U.S., including movie director Steven Spielberg and TV mogul Oprah Winfrey.
The suspect, Abraham Abdallah, used stolen credit cards to obtain the individuals' credit reports, said Jerry Varson, a spokesman for the New York City Police Department. The information from the credit reports was used to open fraudulent brokerage accounts under the victims' names, he said. Abdallah allegedly then syphoned money from the legitimate accounts to the phoney ones, Varson said. It is not clear how much money was actually taken.
Abdallah was caught only after an email request to transfer US$10 million from a Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc. brokerage account belonging to Thomas Siebel, the founder of Siebel Systems Inc., raised questions, according to a Dow Jones News Service report. The information was gleaned from a criminal complaint filed March 7 in state court in New York, the report said.
Abdallah allegedly obtained bank, brokerage and credit card account information for the likes of Spielberg, Winfrey, home and garden guru Martha Stewart, Texas billionaire and former presidential candidate Ross Perot and media giant Ted Turner, according to the Dow report.
Abdallah allegedly used computers at a local library and mobile Web-enabled phones to help carry out the six-month scam, Dow Jones reported. His fraudulent scheme allegedly got him access to accounts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Bear Stearns Companies Inc. and Merrill Lynch, according to members of the New York Police Department's Computer Investigation and Technology Unit, the report states.
Abdallah was arrested on Feb. 23 after police intercepted a package that contained $25,000 in equipment for manufacturing and magnetizing credit cards, the Dow report states. Officers posing as courier service employees were directed to Abdallah and arrested him by jumping on his 2000 Volvo and grabbing him through the sunroof, according to a New York Post article Tuesday.
Abdallah has been charged with criminal possession of forged devices and attempted grand larceny, Varson said. Abdallah has denied any wrongdoing, according to the Dow report.
Identity theft affects more than 500,000 people and costs millions of dollars each year, according to the U.S. National Center for Victims of Crime.