Many mortgage brokers got rich in those golden days of inflated housing prices and loose credit. Jerry Van Le, a mortgage broker from the Sacramento area, made his millions by stealing Social Security numbers from his clients’ mortgage applications, according to an affidavit filed in federal court last week.
Le is accused of stealing the Social Security numbers of dozens of children, immigrants and others who hadn’t yet established credit.
Le allegedly used some of the stolen information to buy a house worth roughly $.5 million, five vehicles, electronics and luxury clothing and shoes. So far, police have impounded a $100,000 BMW 645 Ci, a $87,000 Mercedes, a new Toyota Tacoma pickup
truck and a $50,000 2003 BMW 745 Li. They've also seized $100,000 in credit cards.
The affidavit also states that Le sold other Social Security numbers nationwide for anywhere from $3,500 to $6,000 a piece.
Within an 18-month period, roughly 2,400 individuals made fraudulent purchases with information they bought from or through Le, according to a Placer County Sheriff’s detective.
Employees at Highway Furniture/NewYork Funding Group Inc. allegedly manufactured credit histories based on the stolen Social Security numbers so the stolen identities appeared credit worthy and could be used to make purchases.
“It’s a $100 million ring,” said Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento.
Child identity theft is thought to be a rapidly growing crime, with at least 500,000 children victimized annually. Children make especially appealing targets for identity thieves because the crimes are usually not discovered until many years later when the child turns 18 and applies for credit to finance college or a first car.
Le was charged with bank, wire and computer fraud, but did not enter a plea during his initial court appearance last week.