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Document and Benefit Fraud
10/20/2011

Member of large-scale identity theft ring pleads guilty

NEWARK, N.J. — Two individuals involved in a large-scale and sophisticated identity theft scheme appeared in court on Thursday. A Palisades Park, N.J., woman admitted her role in a large-scale and sophisticated identity theft scheme, and a former resident of New York charged in the same scheme appeared in court for the first time since his arrest on Sept. 26, 2011. This case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Law enforcement partners participating in the investigation included the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation, the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office and the Office's Chief of Detectives Steven Cucciniello.

Sung-Sil Joh, aka "Jenny," 47, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden to charges of conspiracy to unlawfully produce identification documents and false identification documents, conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting financial institutions and bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Joh, of Palisades Park, N.J., was arrested on Sept. 16, 2010, in a coordinated law enforcement takedown of 53 individuals in connection with widespread, sophisticated identity theft and fraud, including 42 other individuals charged with participating in one large-scale criminal enterprise.

She was released on $250,000 unsecured bond.

In addition, Seung-Ho Noh, aka "Peter," 51, formerly of New York, was charged in the same criminal complaint. He was at large until his arrest on Sept. 26, 2011, in California. He made his initial appearance Thursday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael A. Shipp and was detained pending the outcome of the charge.

According to court documents and statements made in court:

Sang-Hyun Park, aka "Jimmy," is alleged to have been the leader of a criminal organization — the Park Criminal Enterprise — headquartered in Bergen County, N.J., that obtained, brokered, and sold identity documents to customers for the purpose of committing credit card fraud, bank fraud and tax fraud. As part of the scheme, the Park Criminal Enterprise obtained Social Security cards beginning with the prefix "586." Social Security cards with that prefix were issued by the United States to individuals, usually from China, who were employed in American territories, such as American Samoa, Guam, and Saipan. The Park Criminal Enterprise sold these Social Security cards to its customers and then escorted the customers to various states to use the cards to obtain other identification cards and driver's licenses.

The Park Criminal Enterprise then engaged in the fraudulent "build up" of credit scores associated with these fraudulently obtained identities. They did so by adding the identity as an authorized user to the credit card accounts of various co-conspirators who received a fee for this service — members of the enterprise's credit build-up teams. By attaching the identities to these existing credit card accounts, the teams increased the credit scores associated with the identities to between 700 and 800. The members of the build-up teams knew neither the real person to whom the identity belonged nor virtually any of the customers who had purchased the identities.

After building the credit associated with these identities, Park and his co-conspirators directed, coached, and assisted Park's customers to open bank accounts and obtain credit cards. Park and his co-conspirators then used these accounts and credit cards to commit fraud. In particular, Park relied on several collusive merchants, who possessed credit card processing, or swipe, machines. For a fee, known as a "kkang fee," these collusive merchants charged the fraudulently obtained credit cards, although no transaction took place. After receiving the money into their merchant accounts from the credit card related to these fraudulent transactions, the collusive merchants gave the money to Park and his co-conspirators, minus their "kkang fee."

Joh was a member of the Park Criminal Enterprise. She admitted she served as an intermediary between the Park Criminal Enterprise and the various "build-up" teams. She admitted she provided cash, Social Security numbers beginning with the number 586, dates of birth and names to co-conspirators for the purpose of establishing credit for the fraudulent identities so they could be used to commit fraud. Joh also escorted customers of the Park Criminal Enterprise to banks and stores to assist the customers obtain fraudulent bank accounts and credit cards. This bank account was then used by the Park Criminal Enterprise to commit bank fraud (which the Park Criminal Enterprise referred to as "check jobs").

Joh admitted she obtained four different identities from the Park Criminal Enterprise, including a 586 Social Security card and a counterfeit Nevada driver's license from co-conspirators. She also traveled to Illinois and fraudulently obtained an identification card in Illinois in October 2008 with one of the 586 Social Security numbers. She these used these identities to commit credit card fraud. In total, Joh admitted she and her co-conspirators caused in excess of $4 million in losses to banks, credit card companies, and others.

At sentencing, Joh faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison on count one and a $250,000 fine; 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine on count two, and a two-year mandatory minimum prison term on count three.

Sentencing before Judge Hayden is scheduled for Feb. 16, 2012.

The criminal complaint charges Seung-Ho Noh with conspiracy to unlawfully produce identification documents. If convicted, he faces a maximum prison term of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The charges and allegations contained in the complaint against Noh are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.