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Eight charged in identity theft fraud scheme involving AT&T customer files

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Eight defendants have been charged with participating in a conspiracy to unjustly enrich themselves by stealing personal identifying information and using the information to make unauthorized wire transfers from victim bank accounts and obtaining unauthorized credit or debit cards, according to BankInfoSecurity.com on Monday.

Collectively named in a twenty-two count federal indictment were Chouman Emily Syrilien, 25, of Lauderdale Lakes, Arrington Basil Segu, 28, of Miami, Carlos Antonio Alexander, 24, of Orlando, Angel Arcos, 23, of Pompano Beach, Shantegra La’Shae Godfrey, 23, of Deerfield Beach, and Monique Smith, 31, of Pompano Beach.

Two unnamed defendants remain at large.

Each of the defendant’s was charged with one count of conspiracy and several defendants were charged individually with access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.

According to the indictment, Syrilien was employed by Interactive Response Technologies, lnc. (IRT) of Margate. IRT provides staffing for call centers to handle direct sales and customer inquiries for AT&T. Syrilien unlawfully provided a co-conspirator with the personal identifying information from multiple AT&T customer files. Segu also unlawfully provided personal identifying information of numerous individuals to the co-conspirator.

Alexander, Godfrey, and Smith were added as “authorized users” on victims’ credit or debit card accounts or bank accounts. This was done in order to access the accounts of victims whose personal identifying information had been stolen.

Once a conspirator’s name was added as an “authorized user,” the bank and/or credit card company was directed to mail additional debit or credit cards bearing the names of these newly added “authorized users” to their addresses or addresses under their control. This was done without the true account holder's knowledge or consent.

The defendants used these credit and debit cards to make purchases or obtain money. Alexander, Smith and Godfrey each made both retail purchases as well as cash advances in excess of $24,000, $12,000 and $8,200, respectively.

Defendant Arcos allowed his personal information to be used to open a bank account to further the fraudulent activity.

AT&T customers who may have been impacted should immediately protect themselves from potential identity theft.

Periodically review your credit report

By keeping close tabs on your credit report, you can detect signs of identity theft early. If you find an account not opened by you and have identified it as fraudulent, enter a dispute directly with the creditor as well as with the credit reporting agencies of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

You can obtain a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or 877-322-8228.

Place a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report

Contact the credit reporting agencies and request a 90-day initial fraud alert on your credit report. Not only will this trigger a free credit report but will advise potential creditors to investigate any application prior to issuing credit, goods, benefits and/or services.

Equifax can be contacted at 800-525-6285, Experian at 888-397-3742 and Trans Union at 800-916-8800. Be sure to renew the alert every three months.

Freeze your credit report

Identity thieves are frozen in their tracks without access to your credit report as potential creditors will not have access to your credit history. In most states, you are entitled to temporarily “freeze” access to your credit profile without cost if you are over 65 years of age or are a verified victim of identity theft. All others may be required to pay a small fee.

Without access to your credit report, a responsible lender will not issue credit.

Stop unsolicited credit card offers

Opting out at www.optoutprescreen.com or 888-5OPT-OUT will stop most unsolicited pre-approved applications and reduce the incidence of identity theft. Opting out refers to the process of removing your name and address from lists supplied by the Equifax, Experian, Trans Union and Innovis credit reporting agencies to be used for firm (preapproved/ prescreened) offers of credit or insurance.

If convicted, each of the defendants face a maximum of thirty years in federal prison for the conspiracy charge, a maximum of ten years in prison for the access device fraud charge, and a mandatory term of two years in prison for each aggravated identity theft charge, at least one of which must be served consecutive to any other term in prison.

An indictment is only an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.

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