A crooked debt collector was sentenced Wednesday to 14½ years in federal prison for stealing clients' money and identities and going so far with intimidation that he threatened to push a disabled veteran in a wheelchair off a bridge.
Khemall Jokhoo, 36, formerly of Lonsdale, Minn., and Burnsville, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis on 33 counts after trying to steal more than $700,000 by using identities of more than 60 victims. He targeted the elderly.
A jury trial found that Jokhoo was formerly registered as a debt collector and was the owner and sole employee of First Financial Services, which he ran from a Burnsville apartment, from May 9, 2002, through Nov. 3, 2009.
As a debt collector, Jokhoo, who has lived in several metro communities, had access to customers' sensitive credit information, including dates of birth, addresses and more.
"Jokhoo used this information to harass and intimidate victims and to demand payment to him for purported debts," the U.S. attorney's office in Minneapolis said in a statement Wednesday. "When he could not convince victims to pay him, Jokhoo impersonated victims, using their bank accounts and other identifying information to take over and steal directly from their account."
In addition to using intimidation tactics, Jokhoo threatened victims with physical harm if they did not pay him, including the disabled veteran in the wheelchair.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said identity theft is a widespread problem, and local and federal law enforcement agencies joined to stop Jokhoo — and to prevent additional victims.
"The term 'identity theft' seems an inadequate description for what the defendant did to the victims in this case," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lola Velazquez-Aguilu.
"He used their identifying information not only to steal their money but also to terrorize them, taking pleasure in making other human beings feel completely powerless and without worth. This defendant's sentence sends an important message to debt collectors who use their positions of trust to steal."
She and fellow prosecutor LeeAnn Bell tried Jokhoo, leading to convictions for 11 counts of bank fraud, 10 counts of aggravated identity theft, nine counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud and one count of impersonating an officer or federal employee.
U.S. District Judge David Doty said after 175 months in federal prison, Jokhoo will be on five years of supervised release. Doty also ordered Jokhoo to pay more than $257,000 in restitution, according to a spokesman for federal prosecutors.
The Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force, state commerce department, U.S. Postal Service and Lonsdale police investigated.
State commerce officials had stripped Khemall "Kenny" Jokhoo of his debt collection and real estate licenses and fined him and his company $100,000 in May 2011.
An administrative law judge had found earlier that Jokhoo misrepresented himself as a lawyer, harassed debtors over extremely old, uncollectable accounts, made unauthorized withdrawals from debtors' financial institutions, cashed forged checks and concealed a prior criminal record on at least seven state license applications since 2005.