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Law firm's records plundered for identities used for frauds

Editorial Staff

The value of client data is demonstrated by the case of a San Jose law firm. A clerk stole data and used it to forge credit applications. And it was not the only professional business targeted.

Six people have been charged in California with a range of identity fraud offences. They are

• Matthew Medlin, 31, of Campbell.

• Jessica Campos, 30, of Santa Clara, also faces charges of breaching California Penal Code section 502(c) for using dental office clients’ personal information.

• Chev Chan, 31, of San Jose, also faces charges of breaching California Penal Code section 496 for receiving stolen property.

• Quang Le, 32, of Santa Clara. Le also faces charges of breaching California Penal Code section 487 for grand theft.

• Daniel Lee Lesly, 31, of Los Altos. Lesly also faces charges of breaching California Penal Code section 487 for grand theft.

• Nick Phuong Luu, 29, of Vallejo. Luu also faces charges of breaching California Penal Code section 487 for grand theft, and section 496 for receiving stolen property.

According to California's Attorney General Edmund Brown, the identity fraud ring was able to steal 20 identities and over USD170,000 worth of cash, expensive clothing, jewellery and accessories. They bought flat screen TVs, a Gucci watch and USD31,000 worth of merchandise from Neiman-Marcus. Members of the ring raised cash by returning items bought using fake identities.

His office says that The ringleaders, Nick Luu and Chev Chan, used several San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and Campbell addresses to divert the victims’ mail. Luu and Chan also had victims’ mail sent through false change-of-address forms and opened five Post Office boxes in San Jose.

But it was where the underlying data was stolen from that is most disturbing. By stealing the data, the gang was able to replicate identities of dozens of people. So they just needed to gain access to places where lots of people leave lots of data - and where, by the nature of the business, that data is relatively insecure.

The answer: a law firm and a dental practice.

Chev Chan, used stolen identities to open Discover, Bank of America, and Chase credit cards while he worked at the San Jose law office. Chan used his work computer to change account addresses and open fraudulent credit card accounts under two victims’ names. Chan also used his employment address to receive mail and open two Post Office boxes under the victims’ names.

During a search of Nick Luu’s residence, Brown’s office found 10 dental claim forms that contained patients’ names, addresses, dates of birth and social security numbers. The forms were given to Luu by Jessica Campos, an employee of the Santa Clara dental office, to use to manufacture fake identities. Campos was told by leaders in the ring to obtain current employers and addresses of Asian males who were about the same ages as the conspirators. As a result of Campos’ involvement, three dental office patients had their personal information used to make fraudulent purchases.

One of the defendants, Quang Le, was seen on video surveillance at Zales Jewelers in Eastridge Mall making a fraudulent purchase of USD4,400. Le also racked up over $31,000 in fraudulent charges at Neiman-Marcus.

The fraud ring also opened fraudulent bank accounts and wrote dozens of checks. Daniel Lesly wrote 15 non-sufficient-funds cheques totalling almost USD2,000 from an account he fraudulently opened at Bank of America. The cheques were written from the account to Target and Lucky’s. Lesly also returned a Gucci watch, previously purchased using a fake identity, and took over USD2,000 in cash for the exchange.

To enable him to use the credit cards, defendant Mark Medlin used the victims’ identities to open credit lines and manufacture fake California driver’s licences. These fraudulent driver’s licences were used by Nick Luu, Chev Chan, and Quang Le.

Additional items purchased with the stolen identities include:
• A watch worth $8,150 from Ben Bridge Jewellers
• Merchandise worth $6,402 from Nordstrom
• A 55” flat screen television worth $3,277 from Sears online
• A 40” flat screen television worth $1,509 from Sears online
• Comforters and bedding worth $725 from Macy’s
• A Movado watch worth $1,281 from Kay’s Jewellers
• A Tag Heuer watch worth $4,485 from Macy’s
• Jewellery worth $8,150 from Ben Bridge Jewellers($ = USD)

All facts are as alleged by the California DG. The Defendants are presumed not guilty.