"Mature businessman sitting on bed in prison cell", via Darrin Klimek, ThinkStock.
"Mature businessman sitting on bed in prison cell", via Darrin Klimek, ThinkStock.
“Mature businessman sitting on bed in prison cell”, via Darrin Klimek, ThinkStock.

You have to appreciate genius. You also have to scratch your head and ask whether the inmates (literally) are running the asylum.

On January 20, 2011, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio announced that Dimorio McDowell, the leader of an identity theft ring that ran up $250,000 of fraudulent charges, was sentenced to more than 14 years in prison.

Unfortunately, while the crime is not unusual and the amount wasn’t shocking, the sentence seemed pretty stiff. I was encouraged… that is until I learned where the criminal enterprise was located.

McDowell was an inmate at Fort Dix Correctional Institution during the 9 months (August 2009-April 2010) the crime was being perpetrated. He was serving time on a plea to aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He’d managed to secure a cell phone, which wasn’t allowed, and used it to run his ring from the comfort of his prison boudoir. The feds got wind of that, and started monitoring his communications with his marks, a troop of accomplices and eventually, undercover federal investigators.

As reported by ConsumerAffairs.com, according to court documents, McDowell’s merry band of thieves obtained information about consumers who had credit accounts at retailers such as Best Buy, Home Depot, JC Penney, Lowe’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sears and Staples.

Adroitly using the purloined account holders’ personal information, such as name, address, or Social Security numbers on his calls, McDowell cobbled together additional information about them and added his cohorts (8 others from the Cleveland area were charged and have pleaded guilty) as authorized users on the accounts. However, the scheme didn’t stop at account takeover–McDowell also opened new accounts. Ever bold, according to a report presented during sentencing, he also posed as a Deputy US Marshal over the phone and attempted to have prisoners moved.

Complements of District Court Judge Donald Nugent, McDowell’s 174-month sentence is slated to begin in 2014 when he finishes the current sentence that brought him to the hallowed halls of Fort Dix.

The good news is that another identity theft cat burglar is off the streets and relegated to using a federal scratching pole for the next 17 years. The bad news is that he was able to quarterback the Con while in the big house. Law enforcement didn’t get it right the first time– hopefully a do-over does the trick.

Originally posted at Credit.com.