Florida man faces charges of identity theft

U.S. Secret Service agents and Jacksonville County Sheriff’s officers arrested a 30-year-old Florida man who authorities allege was trying to sell 60,000 names and personal information of The Prudential Insurance Co. of America employees.

Donald Matthew McNeese, of Callahan, Fla., was charged with illegal transfer of pedigree information for the purposes of committing a felony, credit card fraud and money laundering, according to Jim Walden of the computer crimes and intellectual property section of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York.

If convicted of the charges, McNeese, a former employee of Newark, N.J.-based Prudential, could face up to 45 years in federal prison and could be liable for US$750,000 in fines, as well as restitution to his victims. He is being held in a Florida jail pending a detention hearing later today.

Court documents also said McNeese is the chief suspect in a series of harassing e-mails that were sent to Prudential employees in the past year.

McNeese was arrested Friday after an almost 19-month investigation begun by detective William F. Moylan of the Nassau (N.Y.) County Police Department and a member of the New York Electronic Crimes Task Force.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, the defendant and Moylan, who was acting undercover, exchanged numerous e-mails concerning the purchase of information that McNeese had allegedly downloaded while working as a database manager at Prudential.

McNeese allegedly offered to sell Moylan employees’ private information, including Social Security numbers, home addresses, phone numbers and salaries, for $50 apiece. Several transactions took place between Moylan and McNeese, and at one point Moylan agreed to buy information provided by McNeese and arranged for a money transfer via Western Union.

Shortly after they had begun working together, Moylan said that McNeese began to suspect he was a police officer. At the time, Moylan was using the screen name of Biff Flobill, while McNeese allegedly signed his messages as Pixguy. According to court documents, Pixguy stopped posting and was replaced by “ricksquibb,” who posted a message saying that Flobill was a police officer from New York with a heavy New York accent. “Ricksquibb” is also a name similar to a Prudential employee known to McNeese, court records say. In addition, the Prudential employee’s personal information, including Social Security number, were posted on a usenet group on June 5, 2000 and unauthorized charges of $2,000 showed up on his credit card statements, the affidavit said.

Moylan said that he had talked to McNeese on the phone in the summer of 2000 while arranging some of the original transactions. Walden, the New York police spokesman, said that in his post-arrest interview, McNeese didn’t disclose why he suspected Moylan was a police officer.

Eventually, police used the Internet service provider addresses contained in e-mails sent by McNeese to locate him and make the arrest.

Investigators also used the Internet provider information to link McNeese to several harassing e-mail messages to Prudential employees, as well as to posts on public discussion forums. In one case, a message suggested that a male Prudential employee was a female looking for sex and resulted in the victim receiving numerous phone calls at his house from people looking for sex.

Authorities also allege that McNeese sent a former boss a message on the anniversary of the boss’s son’s death saying in part: [Your son] would still be alive if you had not devoted yourself to your job. The countless hours you spent working should have been spent with your sick son who needed you the most … He hated never having you home to talk to.”

Walden said that in the course of the investigation, several Prudential employees were told to be on guard that their private information might be compromised. However, Walden said he couldn’t elaborate on that point or say what safeguards were in place to keep McNeese from disseminating the information to a wider audience.