Manila: Three foreign nationals were arrested in the Philippines for their role in a scheme to defraud US veterans and active servicemen of millions of dollars in stolen benefit payments.
According to information from the US Justice Department Office of the Attorney General, Robert Boling Jr (American), Allan Velarde Kerr (Australian) and Jongmin Seok were arrested in early August in Angeles and Mabalacat cities in Pampanga province.
Their accomplice and suspected ringleader, Frederick Brown, a civilian employee at a US Army installation, and Trorice Crawford had earlier been arrested in Las Vegas and San Diego, respectively.
The five were indicted last August 21 in San Antonio, Texas for 14 counts of coordinating the identity theft of mostly disabled veterans and servicemen as well as multiple counts of conspiracy, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
“The charged defendants, who were based both in the Philippines and the United States, are alleged to have used the stolen personal identifying information [PII] of thousands of military members to access Department of Defence and Veterans Affairs benefits sites and steal millions of dollars,” the US Justice Department said in a statement.
According to the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration, Boling had been in the country since 2011, while Kerr last arrived in the Philippines in December 2006.
The agency has yet to come up with information on Jongmin.
Based on the US Attorney General’s indictment information, the identity theft and fraud scheme started in 2014 when Brown stole thousands of military members’ PII — including names, dates of birth, social security numbers and Department of Defence identification numbers.
“Brown is alleged to have then provided the stolen information to Boling, who exploited the information in various ways together with his Philippines-based co-defendants Kerr and Seok,” said the indictment.
Boling, Kerr, and Seok used the stolen information to access the portal of the Department of Defence.
“Once through the portal, the defendants are alleged to have accessed benefits information. Access to these detailed records enabled the defendants to steal or attempt to steal millions of dollars from military members’ bank accounts. The defendants also stole veterans’ benefits payments,” the Attorney General’s Office said.
After the suspects were able to hack the military members’ bank accounts and veterans’ benefits payments, Boling allegedly worked with Crawford to recruit individuals who serve as dummies and would accept the deposit of stolen funds into their bank accounts.
These stolen funds were then wired through international remittance services to the suspects own personal bank accounts.
“The crimes charged today are reprehensible and will not be tolerated by the Department of Justice. These defendants are alleged to have illegally defrauded some of America’s most honourable citizens, our elderly and disabled veterans and service members,” said Attorney General William P. Barr.