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Source: ZD Net

Posted on March 20, 2001

      A restaurant worker allegedly masterminded the largest theft of identities in Internet history and is suspected of stealing millions of dollars from celebrities, billionaires and executives such as Steven Spielberg and Ted Turner, the New York Post said on Tuesday.

      The newspaper quoted New York police detectives as saying that the high-school dropout, Abraham Abdallah, 32, duped more than 200 of the "Richest People in America" listed in Forbes magazine by skillfully using computers in a Brooklyn library.

      Abdallah has denied any wrongdoing, the newspaper said. He faces federal fraud charges but his lawyer declined comment.

      Police said they arrested Abdallah a month ago after pursuing him for six months as he insulated himself by using Web-enabled cell phones, virtual voice mail and other elusive tactics.

      "He was everywhere, pretending to be everyone, when he was really in New York, sometimes working in a restaurant kitchen," the Post quoted one source as saying.

      High-profile victims Police said Abdullah allegedly breached the bank, brokerage and credit card accounts of tycoons and celebrities such as movie director Spielberg, CNN founder Turner, financier George Soros and Warren Buffet, the fourth richest man in the world and head of Berkshire Hathaway insurance and investment business.

      Other victims included Disney CEO Michael Eisner, star talk show host and author Oprah Winfrey and Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone.

      "He's the best I ever faced," Detective Michael Fabozzi of the NYPD's Computer Investigation and Technology Unit was quoted as saying in the New York Post. His colleague, Detective Jahmal Daise, said: "You rarely run into someone this good."

      Police alleged that Abdallah duped companies such as TRW, Equifax and Experian into providing detailed credit reports on his rich victims. He then used the confidential information to clone their identities and gain access to their accounts at brokerages such as Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch and Fidelity Investments, officials told the newspaper.

      The report said Abdallah was caught Feb. 23 when detectives arranged a sting operation, sending a package of equipment used to manufacture and magnetize credit cards to a bogus address. When Abdallah arrived to collect the package in an expensive 2000 Volvo, he was arrested. Fabozzi told the Post he had to jump through the sun roof of the car to subdue and handcuff Abdallah as he tried to speed away.

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