A woman described as a minor player in what prosecutors said was a massive identity theft and fraud ring largely involving Korean immigrants on Friday became the first of 53 defendants in the case to be sentenced.
Song-Ja Park was spared jail time and sentenced to probation by U.S. District Judge Katherine Hayden in Newark. Park, who had a court-appointed Korean translator with her, did not speak.
Park previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges and volunteered to return to her native Korea.
Park and 52 others, many of them Korean immigrants living in New York and New Jersey, were charged in September with either using or helping people fraudulently obtain credit cards, bank accounts and loans using illegally obtained Social Security numbers.
Prosecutors say the ringleaders operated a scheme to buy legitimate Social Security cards from brokers who fraudulently obtained them from Asian immigrants – mostly Chinese citizens – working in American territories, including Guam, American Samoa and Saipan.
They then resold the cards to Korean immigrants in the territorial U.S. who used them to apply for U.S. driver’s licenses in California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Nevada, New York and elsewhere. Several of the defendants used their identifications to apply for credit cards. Some used all the credit they obtained, buying luxury goods such as vehicles, designer bags or liquor, some of it to resell.
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said at the time of the arrests that the Social Security cards used in the scheme all began with the prefix 586, indicating they were limited edition numbers issued predominantly to laborers in U.S. territories.
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