Forbes rich list fall prey to high-tech fraudster

Brooklyn busboy alleged to have stolen millions from America's wealthiest

US authorities claim to have cracked a bizarre case of identity theft in which a New York City busboy used high-tech equipment to steal millions from more than 200 of Forbes Magazine's "Richest People in America".

Last month New York City police arrested Abraham Abdallah, 32, a high-school dropout with a history of credit card fraud, alleging he impersonated such personalities as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Oprah Winfrey in order to steal funds and purchase goods with their credit cards, according to reports in the New York Post.

Abdallah allegedly carried out a complex campaign of fraud in which he tricked credit agencies such as Experian into sending him the credit details of wealthy individuals, then using the detailed information to gain access to their accounts. Abdallah apparently used a Forbes article about America's "400 Richest People" as a starting point to target his victims.

He allegedly used various methods of carrying out fraud and concealing his identity, including forging corporate stationary and sending delivery couriers on circuitous routes to throw the police off the track.

Police say Abdallah used a Yahoo! email account to forge communications regarding transfers of funds and shares. One such transmission, made to Merrill Lynch in December, asked for the transfer of $10m (about £7m) from an account belonging to Thomas Siebel, founder of Siebel Systems, but aroused suspicion because it would have put the account into the red.

The case was handed over to the police, who traced the email transmission back to the addresses "LT265@yahoo.com" and "RS264@yahoo.com", according to the Post report.

Abdallah also used surprisingly low-tech methods, such as official-looking stationery and stamps with corporate logos. He accessed the Internet through a local library branch.

On 23 February the police finally arrested Abdallah in New York City after intercepting a package of $25,000 worth of credit-card manufacturing equipment he had allegedly ordered. He may have stolen as much as several million pounds, according to police.

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