Charges Filed in 1st P2P-Based Identity Theft Case

Q Boyer
SEATTLE — A Seattle resident has been indicted in a case that the Justice Department said is the first case filed charging a suspect with using digital file sharing software to commit identity theft.

According to an indictment unsealed Thursday, sometime around March 2005, Gregory Thomas Kopiloff devised a scheme to use peer-to-peer software to obtain “money and property by means of material false and fraudulent pretenses.” Using the P2P networks Limewire and Soulseek, Kopiloff allegedly “surreptitiously and illicitly obtain[ed] identity … banking, financial or credit information belonging to others.”

Assistant U.S. attorney Kathrun Warma said the case underlines the risks of using file-sharing software.

“If you are running file-sharing software, you are giving criminals the keys to your computer,” Warma said. “Criminals are getting access to incredibly valuable information.”

Using Limewire and Soulseek, Kopiloff allegedly searched the computers of his victims for federal income tax returns, student aid applications and credit reports that were stored on the unsuspecting victims’ hard drives. He then allegedly used the information he stole to obtain credit accounts in the names of his victims, subsequently making online purchases using those fraudulent lines of credit.

“Kopiloff would instruct vendors of that merchandise to ship it to addresses designated by Kopiloff where he or an accomplice would then receive it,” the Justice Department said in the indictment. “Kopiloff would then sell the merchandise at a substantial discount to other buyers.”

According to the indictment, Kopiloff “defrauded at least 83 individuals” and “fraudulently purchased at least $73,126.32 in merchandise” between March 2005 and August.

Kopiloff also used substantially lower-tech means to obtain information useful for identity theft purposes as well, according to the indictment.

“It was further part of the scheme and artifice to defraud that … Kopiloff also obtained identity, and also banking, financial and credit information from other illicit sources besides P2P file sharing, including from associates who obtained documents containing such information from ‘dumpster diving’ or stolen or discarded mail,” the Justice Department said in the indictment.

Kopiloff is charged with mail fraud, accessing a protected computer without authorization to further fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft.