An AWOL U.S. Army soldier based in Pittsburgh is accused of stealing Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's identity and using it attempt to steal money from Allen's Citibank account.
Court documents unsealed this week in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania alleged that Brandon Price, 30, of Pittsburgh, impersonated Allen on the phone and convinced a Citibank employee to send him a debit card in Allen's name and account number.
Price, who has been absent without leave from the U.S. Army since June 2010, is accused of then attempting to conduct more than $15,000 worth of transactions using the illegally obtained debit card.
According to court records, Price called Citibank's customer service on Jan. 9 and managed to change the address on Allen's account from Seattle, Wash. to an address on Station Street, in Pittsburgh. He also added a new phone number to the account on the same day.
On Jan. 12, Price, representing himself as Allen, called Citibank again, this time to say that he had misplaced his debit card but didnt want to report it as stolen. Price allegedly convinced the bank to send him a replacement debit card via UPS to the Pittsburgh address.
Price received the card a day later, activated it by phone immediately and used it to successfully make a payment of $658.81 against a delinquent loan account in Price's name at the Armed Forces Bank in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He then attempted to use the card the same day to make a $15,000 Western Union transaction via the phone.
A day later, Price is alleged to have used the card for a $278 purchase at a local Gamestop store and a $1 purchase at a Family Dollar store. Video surveillance cameras at both stores caught Price attempting to make those transactions. Price was arrested March 2 and is being held in federal custody on bank fraud and wire fraud related charges. He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted.
The complaint against Price alleges that he used a computer in carrying out his theft. However, it's not immediately clear from the complaint how Price used a computer in carrying out his alleged crimes. It's also not clear from the court documents how Price obtained the identifying information that he would have needed in order to pass himself off as Allen or to get Citibank to change Allen's account address and send him a replacement card.
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.