MIAMI, Fla. - He was the man behind an identity theft scheme in Florida. Investigators say hundreds of credit cars were found in his home, and dozens of people were hurt because of it.
"I went to apply for a couple of credit cards and got declined," explained John Becker.
So Becker called his bank and found out someone had racked up more than $12,000 in charges on one credit card.
"I said, 'Why would you give me $12,000 worth of credit?' And they said things started getting charged, things so fast that they ran up a 12, 13-thousand dollar limit before the credit card company even realized what was going on," explained Becker.
Investigators say Dennis Sergeev, a Russian national, is the man responsible. They say he stole the identities of more than 50 people and accrued $40,000 in losses.
"He was active online, claims he received the stolen identities online," said US Postal Inspector Blance Alvarez. "That is what he lived off of, that was his only income."
After finding hundreds of fraudulent credit cards in a P.O. Box owned by Segreev, postal inspectors arrested him.
"When we interviewed this defendant at his home, he confessed and compared himself to Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me if you Can," said Alvarez.
The movie with DiCaprio, who plays a con artist, is always one step ahead of authorities.
"But instead of having flight attendants escorting him out he had female postal inspectors escorting him to jail," Alvarez added.
When inspectors searched Segreev's home, they say they found the evidence.
"We found a lot of credit cards in victims' names hidden all through that house," said Alvarez.
They also found stereos, cameras, TVs, phones and cash.
Sergeev was arrested on federal ID theft charges and sentenced to 3 years in prison and more than $40,000 in restitution. Deportation to Russia was ordered after the time was served.
Meantime, inspectors advice that no matter how old you are, you check your credit at least once a year to make sure your identity hasn't been stolen.
"Teenagers will take a picture of their driver's license and put it on their FB page because they are proud. They don't realize they are giving up their date of birth, their address, their name, which is very important. Identity thieves scour the internet looking for this information," warned Alvarez.
"Luckily, not a lot of damage was done that would affect me. Luckily at that time, I wasn't going for a house or I wasn't going for a car loan or anything of importance," said Becker.
Postal inspectors say if your identity has ever been stolen, you need to put a fraud alert on your credit right away. This will alert credit bureaus that you have had a problem in the past.
Everyone is entitled to one free credit check every year with each of the three credit reporting agencies. The Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida recommends the website AnnualCreditReport.com. It has step-by-step instructions and links to all three credit bureaus.
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