LOS ANGELES – Two Nigerian-born scam artists were arrested in Los Angeles in 2002 on charges of using ChoicePoint Inc. (CPS) to tap into its vast database of personal information, a similar security breach that the data warehouser announced last month, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
Bibiana Benson, 39, of Sherman Oaks and her brother, Adedayo Benson, 38, of Encino gained access to at least 7,000 people and used their identities to buy at least $1 million in merchandise, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing court documents.
According to the Times, Bibiana Benson pleaded guilty to opening ChoicePoint (search) accounts in 2000 under Christine Burton and C&B Research by using a real estate broker's license and driver's license for identification. Authorities said they contacted the real Christine Burton in Indiana who claimed she never opened the account.
A phone call to a ChoicePoint representative seeking comment was not immediately returned early Wednesday.
Prosecutors said Benson obtain personal information, including Social Security numbers and addresses, and sold the data to mainly Nigerian immigrants for $40 to $50 per name, the Times said.
She pleaded guilty in September 2002 to one felony count of unlawful use of identification and was sentenced to 54 months in prison. She is appealing the sentence.
Adedayo Benson pleaded guilty in November to three felony counts in connection to the use and attempted use of fake credit cards. He is scheduled to be sentenced Monday.
Last month, another Nigerian man pleaded no contest to creating a bogus business account with ChoicePoint and stole information from at least 145,000 records. Olatunji Oluwatosin, 41, of Hollywood, was sentenced to 16 months in prison. Prosecutors said he was arrested in October with five cell phones and three credit cards that belonged to other people.
Authorities said that it's unclear whether there is a connection between the two cases that involved three Nigerians.
"I think the people in this area of crime know that ChoicePoint and companies like them are a great resource for theft," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Krause, who prosecuted the 2002 case.
ChoicePoint, based outside Atlanta, has 19 billion public records that include motor vehicle registrations, license and deed transfers, military records, addresses and Social Security numbers.
The company acknowledged last month that thieves used previously stolen identities to create what appeared to be legitimate businesses seeking personal records. The bandits, who operated undetected for more than a year, then opened up 50 accounts and received vast amounts of data on consumers, including their credit reports.
The latest case became public as a result of a California law that requires credit agencies to notify victims of identity theft. ChoicePoint said the breach affected nearly 145,000 people nationwide, including more than 34,000 in California.