A New Twist on Identity Theft
Late last month, we helped wrap up a case
that took identity theft to a whole new level:
one company trying to steal $23 million by
pretending to be another company.
was made possible by a remarkable coincidence:
two private security companies with nearly
identical names. One of the firms, based in
Michigan, was named Executive Outcome Inc.
The other, based in South Africa, was called
Executive Outcomes Inc.
criminal maneuvering began in late 2001, when
a British debt collector called the Michigan-based
Executive Outcome, run by Pasquale John DiPofi.
The collection agency asked if DiPofi wanted
help collecting $23 million owed by the government
of Sierra Leone for military equipment, security,
slight problem. The millions of dollars
weren't owed to DiPofi's company. It was owed
to the other firm, Executive Outcomes, a half
a world away.
probably started as a crime of opportunity,"
says Special Agent William Fleming, who worked
the case out of our office in Clinton Township,
Michigan. "When the call came in, the
coincidences of the similar company names
and all that money on the table must have
been a huge temptation."
one DiPofi couldn't resist. He hired the
collection agency to pursue the debt. He and
an employee, Christopher Belan, then began
producing documents to back up their claim.
They also registered a new company in Michigan
and in England to mirror the name of the South
debt collector went ahead and filed paperwork
with the government of Sierra Leone on DiPofi's
behalf. That's when alarm bells starting ringing:
Sierra Leone had already agreed to a payment
plan with the South African company. Understandably,
the government balked when the new claim was
submitted. A legal skirmish followed between
DiPofi and the South African company.
the conflict turned malicious. A representative
of the South African company got a phone call
urging him not to be "greedy" and
to reach a settlement with DiPofi's company
soon-or else. The representative also received
a letter with several interior pictures of
his homes in London and Paris.
when we got involved. The representative
called the police
who called our special
agent assigned as a Legal Attaché in
who turned the case over to Agent
a search warrant, Fleming searched DiPofi's
office and found evidence of the forged documents.
Most were conveniently created on DiPofi's
and Belan never collected a dime. They
both pled guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud,
and other charges. Each received prison time
and paid $51,000 to the South African representative
they threatened to compensate for the extra
security he hired.
was definitely one of the most unusual cases
I've worked: an American company pretending
to be a foreign company to scam a foreign
government," Fleming says. "We're
just glad he didn't get away with itfor
the sake of the South African company and
the government of Sierra Leone."
this kind of corporate identity theft happen
often? Not that we've seen, but it's good
for businesses to be alert to the possibility.
You just never know
on Identity Theft
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