More charges for L.A. man in ChoicePoint ID theft

August 31, 2005

By Dan Whitcomb, Reuters,10801,104276,00.html

A Nigerian man has been indicted for infiltrating the personal data firm ChoicePoint Inc. to fraudulently access financial records of consumers in a still-widening case that has spurred calls for tighter regulation of the consumer information business. Oluwatunji Oluwatosin, who had already been sentenced to 16 months in prison in the ChoicePoint case, now faces 22 more charges, Los Angeles prosecutors said on Tuesday. The additional counts were filed as authorities broadened their investigation of data theft at ChoicePoint. They expect more people to be charged in the case.

Prosecutors said the personal data of about 1,500 people was fraudulently accessed, with another 148,000 or so people nationwide exposed to identity theft. The ChoicePoint case first came to light in February when the company -- as required by state law -- informed some 35,000 Californians that they were at risk for identity theft.

"The 22-count grand jury indictment unsealed today represents one of the largest cases of identity theft ever prosecuted in Los Angeles County," said Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley.

The breach prompted investigations by federal authorities and a U.S. Senate committee. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) has used the ChoicePoint case to push for a federal law that would require data companies to advise consumers when their information has been compromised.

Oluwatosin, 42, a resident of the Los Angeles suburb of North Hollywood, is accused of using mail drops to dupe ChoicePoint into thinking he ran a legitimate business, gaining access to the Alpharetta, Ga., company's vast collection of consumer information. Prosecutors say Oluwatosin and other members of a fraud ring used that information to access existing credit card accounts or set up new accounts.

The case caused $2 million in losses for Bank of America Corp., Citibank, Bank One Corp., Household Bank and Discover Financial Services Inc. -- and another $2 million in losses for ChoicePoint to cover the costs of notifying consumers whose data was compromised.

In February, Oluwatosin was sentenced to 16 months in prison after pleading no contest to a single count of identity theft in the ChoicePoint case. Authorities continued the investigation while he was in prison.

He faces 22 years in prison if convicted on all of the counts in the new indictment, which charges him with conspiracy, grand theft, identity theft and credit card access fraud.

A second Nigerian national, Kabiru Olatunde Ipaye, 43, has been charged in a related case with receiving stolen property, access fraud, possessing a forged driver's license and other counts.

ChoicePoint's databases contain 19 billion public records, including driving records, sex-offender lists and FBI lists of wanted criminals and suspected terrorists.

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