A former medical records administrator pleaded guilty for his role in a foreign-based conspiracy the Justice Department called the largest identity theft scheme against military members and their families.
Fredrick Brown, 38, who worked as a civilian technician at a United States Army base in South Korea, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to launder money. Brown faces up to 20 years in prison for each count.
Brown admitted that, from July 2014 to September 2015, he stole the personal identifying information of thousands of military members, including names, Social Security numbers, Department of Defense ID numbers, dates of birth, and contact information by taking photos of his computer screen while logged into the U.S. military’s health records database. Brown then handed over that stolen data to the scheme’s alleged ringleader, Robert Wayne Boling Jr. “so that Boling and others could exploit the information in various ways to access Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs benefits sites and steal millions of dollars,” authorities said.
The 24-page indictment outlined a conspiracy where Brown would steal the personal identifying information from military members, both active duty and veterans, and their families, and pass the information to Boling, who worked with two foreign nationals to divert bank funds and military benefits, mostly from Veterans Affairs accounts belonging to disabled or elderly veterans, into their own personal accounts overseas using that data. Another conspirator laundered the money. Evidence of this scheme was uncovered earlier this year.
Authorities said Boling, a U.S. citizen raised in South Korea and living in the Philippines, was assisted in the Philippines by Allan Albert Kerr of Australia and Jongmin Seok of South Korea with exploiting the stolen information to obtain records, such as military personnel files and credit reports, and to use the Department of Defense’s military benefits portal to divert money and benefits away from the military members. Trorice Crawford, a U.S. citizen living in California, recruited and supervised “money mules,” people who agreed to use their accounts to receive stolen funds, authorities said, and helped move the funds from those accounts back to the co-conspirators in the Philippines after taking a cut.
Boling, Crawford, Kerr, and Seok have been charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The DOJ said on Wednesday that Boling, Kerr, and Seok are in custody in the Philippines awaiting repatriation or extradition to the U.S., where they will likely be tried in the Western District of Texas. Crawford is already in federal custody.
The DOJ said in August that there were at least 3,300 victims and said on Wednesday that the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are still coordinating with the DOJ to notify and provide resources to the thousands of identified victims. The thefts and attempted thefts of personal information began in 2014 and continued through this summer, totaling in the millions of dollars.
“To our knowledge, this is the largest criminal case ever involving identify theft of military-affiliated personnel,” U.S. Attorney John Bash of Texas said in August.