‘Like a heavy anchor he brought his whole family down’: Credit Repair Business Operator and 7 Family Members Sentenced in $ 3.4 Million Identity Fraud Case


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If you can’t trust your family, who can you trust?

The operator of a credit repair business in North Carolina was sentenced to more than eight years in prison for creating false police reports to clean up bad credit from his customers and enlisting his family to help manage a $ 3.4 million credit card fraud scheme at Lowe’s LOW,
+ 0.55%.

Michael Griffin, 53, implicated seven relatives in the credit card scam, including his wife, daughter, two brothers and three sisters, one of whom was an online pastor. The scheme involved creating “synthetic identities” based on stolen children’s social security numbers, prosecutors said.

“Like a heavy, heavy anchor, he brought his entire family down,” US District Court Judge Terrence Boyle said during Griffin’s conviction on Wednesday, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

All of Griffin’s relatives pleaded guilty to the case in October and were sentenced to up to 14 months in prison.

A message left with Griffin’s attorney was not immediately returned.

False police reports

The investigation into Griffin began in 2019 when authorities accused him of filing false police reports with credit rating agencies, saying his clients – some of whom paid $ 3,000 for his credit rating services. credit repair – had been victims of identity theft. The ruse often worked and Griffin’s clients were unaware of what he had done, according to court documents.

Prosecutors said Griffin carried out the scam on behalf of nearly 600 customers of his credit repair business.

After being indicted, the case spread after investigators determined Griffin had engaged in something called synthetic identity theft, where a stolen social security number is often associated with a fake name, creating thus a false identity.

Prosecutors say Griffin at one point used such fake ID to secure a car loan to purchase a 2018 Hyundai Genesis for $ 73,000.

The scam then spread to credit card fraud. Griffin has been accused of enlisting family members to help him apply for dozens of Lowe’s credit cards issued by Synchrony SYF,
+1.23%
Bank, using synthetic identities, prosecutors said.

Messages left with Synchrony and Lowe’s representatives were not immediately returned.

Investigators say Griffin would then maximize accounts to buy prepaid charge cards and then move away from the credit card. Prosecutors say Griffin also scammed other financial institutions through a similar ruse.

Griffin pleaded guilty to fraud in August and was sentenced Wednesday to 100 months in federal prison. He was also ordered to pay $ 400,000 in restitution.

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