Twin Cities ringleader gets 25 years for his role in a $2.5 million scheme that entangled 14 states.
Kara Derner, an outpatient therapist at Sioux Trails Mental Health Center in St. Peter, Minn., had her identity stolen when she applied for her license to practice. The plot involved fake driver’s licenses and stolen Social Security numbers. Fortunately, thieves were unable to cash checks on her bank account.
Ruth Linehan’s first sign of trouble was a notice that her checking account was overdrawn.
Someone had stolen a box of her checks from the mailbox of her south Minneapolis apartment building and had cashed six or seven checks totaling thousands of dollars.
That was in 2008.
Five years later, federal authorities are wrapping up the prosecution of one of the largest identify theft rings ever caught in Minnesota, a criminal enterprise that was hatched here but sprawled over 14 states and involved more than 100 people.
Through break-ins, thefts and insider information, the thieves acquired private identification data and used it to steal more than $2.5 million, victimizing hundreds of people plus banks and major retailers.
The last of six ringleaders, Gordon Moore, 42, who lived in the Twin Cities, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson. Moore is one of 33 participants convicted in federal court, with about 25 more convicted in state court. Magnuson differed with Moore’s attorney, who described the operation as a garden-variety crime ring while asking for leniency.
“This is, in my experience, the most complex, involved, massive conspiracy for fraud and identity theft that I have seen,” Magnuson said. “Frankly, it was the most sophisticated in my experience.”
Moore, who has a lengthy criminal history, fled during his identity theft trial in April and was convicted in absentia. He was arrested July 8 at a hotel in Milwaukee.
Five other ringleaders were previously sentenced for terms ranging from 10 to 25 years.
“These defendants breached [public] trust and wreaked havoc in our community and our institutions,” said Nicole Enisch, chief of the criminal division of the U.S. attorney’s office. “It is one of the largest identity theft cases our office has ever prosecuted.”
The bravado of the operation was staggering.
Robin Finger, a receptionist with the state Board of Psychology who was drawn into the conspiracy by Moore, stole personal information, including Social Security numbers, of 60 psychologists. She fed the data to ringleaders who used a phalanx of individuals to breach the psychologists’ checking accounts.
Other participants in the ring worked at the St. Paul Postal Credit Union; Sonus, a hearing aid company; Wells Fargo Bank; and Pearson, an education company.
More information was obtained by thieves who broke into businesses, homes and cars, stealing checkbooks, mail and purses.
“These defendants caused immeasurable hardship to innocent victims,” said Kelly Jackson, special agent in charge of IRS criminal investigations in the St. Paul field office.
Investigation a team effort