Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben Bernanke was one of hundreds of victims of an identity fraud ring that stole over $2.1 million from individuals and financial institutions, Newsweek magazine reported on Wednesday.
The magazine, citing court documents, said the central bank chief became entangled in the scam after a thief stole his wife's purse in August of last year and began cashing checks on the family's bank account.
The purse-snatcher was working for a crime ring that federal agents and police in several U.S. states had been investigating for months, Newsweek said, adding that Bernanke's wife, Anna, was not specifically targeted.
It said the theft of the Bernanke checkbook became part of a wide-ranging identity-theft investigation by the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Postal Inspection Service which had been previously underway.
Newsweek said the probe culminated in a series of arrests, criminal complaints, and indictments brought by federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia.
One of the group's ringleaders, Clyde Austin Gray, known as "Big Head," pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud last month, Newsweek said.
Gray employed an army of pickpockets, mail thieves, and office workers to swipe checks, credit cards, military IDs, and other personal records, it said, citing his plea agreement and other court records filed in his case.
Bernanke, in a statement to Newsweek, said, "identity theft is a serious crime that affects millions of Americans each year. Our family was but one of 500 separate instances traced to one crime ring," he said. "I am grateful for the law enforcement officers who patiently and diligently work to solve and prevent these financial crimes."