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Georgia Inmate Accused in $11M Fraud Via Contraband Cellphone

Contraband cellphones are invaluable to inmates. In in the hands of Arthur Lee Cofield, serving a 14-year sentence for armed robbery at a Georgia state prison, a mobile phone turned out to be worth $11 million, federal prosecutors said. From the prison in Butts County, south of Atlanta, Cofield called the Charles Schwab Corporation in 2020 and impersonated a billionaire named S.K., who was later identified as Sidney Kimmel, according to a federal indictment, reports the New York Times. Cofield spoke with a company representative about opening a checking account. After being told he needed a form of identification and a utility bill, a co-conspirator texted him a picture of Kimmel’s driver’s license and a utility bill. Cofield was so convincing that he persuaded the financial-services giant to transfer $11 million from Kimmel’s bank account to a precious metals dealer in Idaho to buy 6,106 American Eagle gold coins.

Cofield used his contraband phone to hire a private security company to take the coins from Boise, Id., to Atlanta on a chartered plane. After the coins had been delivered, he contacted the owner of a six-bedroom house on 1.4 wooded acres in Atlanta and offered $4.4 million for the property. Jose Morales, warden of the unit that housed Cofield, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Cofield was “a shrewd, intelligent individual who could con you out of millions.” Cofield, 31, was charged with several federal counts, including conspiracy to commit bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. A spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Corrections said the agency had a “robust plan” for cracking down on contraband phones. The spokeswoman said that about 5,600 contraband phones were confiscated in fiscal year 2022.


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