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North Hills Man Charged in Indictment Alleging He Fraudulently Obtained Millions of Dollars by Identity Theft via Mail Theft

October 25, 2023

READ FULL ARTICLE AT » United States Department of Justice

LOS ANGELES – A San Fernando Valley man was charged today in a federal grand jury indictment alleging he fraudulently obtained approximately $2.6 million by stealing Beverly Hills residents’ identities – often by stealing mail and packages from their homes – then using that information to open fraudulent bank accounts to which he unlawfully transferred money from the victims’ bank accounts.

Oren David Sela, 35, of North Hills, was charged in an eight-count indictment that a federal grand jury returned today. The grand jury charged Sela with three counts of bank fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, one count of possession of 15 or more unauthorized access devices, one count of unlawful possession of at least five identity documents, and two counts of possession of stolen mail.

Sela’s arraignment is scheduled for October 30. He has been in federal custody since his arrest on October 10. A federal magistrate judge has ordered him jailed without bond.

According to the indictment returned today and other court documents, from November 2021 to October 2023, Sela stole the mail of Beverly Hills residents to obtain debit cards, bank account numbers, credit cards, telephone numbers, and other personal identifying information (PII). Sela allegedly used the PII he obtained to gain unauthorized access to the victims’ bank accounts. Sometimes, to defeat two-factor authentication on a victim’s account, Sela would engage in “SIM swapping” of the victim’s telephone number to a SIM card that he would control.

“SIM swapping” is the process of fraudulently inducing a carrier to reassign a cell phone number from the legitimate subscriber’s SIM card to a SIM card controlled by another without the legitimate subscriber’s authorization. This allows the fraudster to take control of the victim’s various accounts through two-step authentication text messages sent to a victim’s cell phone.

After gaining access to a victim’s bank account, Sela allegedly would open additional fraudulent accounts in the victim’s name and transfer funds from the victim’s bank account into those accounts. Sela allegedly would then withdraw funds from the fraudulent accounts or use the fraudulent accounts to make unauthorized purchases or transfers.

Sometimes, Sela caused debit cards and credit cards linked to a victim’s account to be sent directly to him, and he then allegedly used those cards to make fraudulent unauthorized purchases.

In December 2022, Sela was arrested for allegedly driving a car reported as stolen, according to an affidavit filed with a criminal complaint in this case. On Sela’s person at the time of his arrest, law enforcement found six debit and credit cards in the names of four different victims.

Subsequent to this arrest, during a search of Sela’s then-residence in West Hollywood, law enforcement uncovered extensive stolen mail containing victims’ PII; bank statements and account information relating to at least 18 different victim accounts; five California driver’s licenses belonging to five confirmed victims of identity theft; seven debit and credit cards belonging to confirmed fraud victims; and checks and receipts for expensive retail items, including a watch worth nearly $17,000, that had been fraudulently obtained using victims’ money, the affidavit alleges.

Sela was found with approximately 33 pieces of stolen mail in December 2022 and at least 118 pieces of stolen mail on October 10, the indictment alleges.

The losses incurred by four victims are approximately $2,590,836, according to court documents, and at least 20 additional victims have been identified.

An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

If convicted of all charges, Sela would face a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each bank fraud count, up to 10 years in federal prison for the possession of unauthorized access devices count and for the unlawful possession of identity documents count, a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for each possession of stolen mail count, and for the aggravated identity theft count, a mandatory two-year prison sentence consecutive to the rest of his sentence.

The Secret Service and the Beverly Hills Police Department are investigating this matter.

Assistant United States Attorneys Aaron B. Frumkin of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section and Jena A. MacCabe of the Violent and Organized Crime Section are prosecuting this case.

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