Man pleads guilty in massive credit info theft case

A man charged in one of the largest identity theft scams in US history pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, and fraud in connection with identity documents Tuesday and could face up to 50 years in prison, according to a statement from US Attorney David Kelley, of the Southern District of New York.

Philip Cummings was charged in October 2002 with the theft of personal financial information for more than 30,000 people while working at the customer help desk of Teledata Communications (TCI), a company that makes software used by banks and financial institutions to request credit reports from commercial credit bureaus such as Equifax, Experian Information Solutions and Trans Union.

Cummings was scheduled to go to trial on November 3, 2004, in the case, which dates back to 2000, when Cummings and an accomplice, Linus Baptiste, began using his access to confidential TCI customer passwords and subscriber codes to download credit histories, according to the US attorney's office. The two men sold the credit reports for US$30 each to others, including two co-defendants: Eniete Ukpong and Ahmet Ulutas, who used it to purchase merchandise such as computers or to obtain credit cards in the names of the victims.

At the time Cummings was charged, his actions were believed to be responsible for more than US$2.7 million in fraud, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

One of the largest of its kind, Cummings' crime also shone a harsh light on the lax security used by TCI and the major credit bureaus to secure consumer data. Among other things, investigators found that Cummings was able to continue to use the information gleaned from his work at TCI long after he resigned from the company in March of 2000, even providing one of his co-conspirators with a laptop outfitted with TCI software and supplied with passwords to download credit reports at will.

Cummings agreed to forfeit any proceeds from his crime. He will be sentenced on January 11, 2005. A trial for co-defendants Ukpong and Ulutas is scheduled for November 3.

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