Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lord Aughenbaugh of the Trailer Park

It turns out you don't have to be an evil Russkrainian genius hacker to be a successful identity thief. Consider the case of sixth grade educated Lord Joseph Helaman Mormon Aughenbaugh and his trailer-mate, Todd Yurgin.

Here's the way these two made more than $1 million from the single-wide trailer in Bear, Delaware, according to the Aughenbaugh Indictment filed in Delaware.

In order to commit identity theft, first, you need some social security numbers. In this case, these were provided primarily through mail theft. At least thirty-six times, beginning possibly as far back as March 2003, the pair stole pieces of mail from other people's mail boxes.

They would use websites to verify the validity of the SSNs, and once confirmed use them to create driver's licenses and other identification cards using a photo editing program. Over the course of six years, Aughenbaugh and Yurgin "misappropriated" the social security numbers of at least 93 individuals.

Once they had their new identities, the two would begin applying for credit cards. They received at least 343 credit cards from at least forty financial institutions over the course of their scheme. These were paired with a dozen separate mailing addresses and Post Office Boxes they had set up.

Eventually the pair determined they needed a better source of income. Aughenbaugh set up two businesses. Cathouse was the name of his "Professional Services-Veterinarian" business and Restored was the name of his "Professional Services-Occupational Therapy" business. Cathouse used the SSN of an adult male as the owner while Restored belonged to a minor child, according to the SSN.

Aughenbaugh created a bank account at PNC Bank under the name Joseph H. Aughenbaugh d.b.a. Restored. Then they bought a Point of Sale Terminal, which they installed in their trailer home, and which they used as an ATM. Whenever they needed money, they would swipe one of their 343 credit cards and charge it for either veterinary or occupational therapy services, which would be deposited to their account.

They then used this money to:

1. make payments to the financial institutions of their various credit cards

2. transfer funds to other bank accounts they controlled

3. pay the lease on the land where their trailer was located

4. make payments on several parcels of real estate

5. to purchase goods and services

6. to make payments on their 2006 Mercury Mariner, 2007 Ford F-150, and 2009 Dodge Avenger

On April 15, 2009, a $40,000 deposit was made to the PNC Bank Account. The payment was written to "Cathouse" and was from "Helaman Mormon".

The various credit cards were also used to go shopping, paying for clothing, accessories, travel, vehicles, high-end jewelry, collectible items, gold coins, and other merchandise. The cards were frequently charged above their balance, and payments were often sent from invalid bank accounts created with fictitious names set up with invalid social security numbers.

So, what do the prosecutors charge them with?

COUNT ONE: Mail Fraud

From March 25, 2003 through September 8, 2009, the defendants "did knowingly conspire with each other to commit mail fraud, in violation of Title 18 USC Sections 1341 and 2, and bank fraud, 18USC sections 1344 and 2, to wit "by devising and intending to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud and to obtain money and property by means of false and fraudulent pretenses and promises and in so doing did deposit and cause to be deposited materials to be sent and delivered by the US Postal Service and by private and commercial interstate carriers, and did defraud a financial institution to obtain the moneys, funds, credits, and other property owned by or under the custody and control of, a financial institution."


The defendants applied for a Citibank Mastercard claiming to be for Clyde Aughenjbaugh, b. March 4, 1986, employed by the University of Pennsylvania, earning a $56,000 salary, with a SSN XX-XXX-4911, which belonging to a minor male child born in 1997. The card made multiple charges to "Cathouse" and also was used to pay for travel for Joseph Aughenbaugh and Todd Yurgin to Walt Disney World.

COUNT THREE: Title 42, USC Section 408(a)(7)(B) "with intent to deceive, falsely represents a number to be the social security account number assigned by the Commissioner of Social Security to him or to another person"

The defendants applied to Cardinal Financial to acquire a loan to purchase real estate in West Deptford, New Jersey. The loan was assured with a check for $7,500 from a PNC Bank Account in the names of T. Yurgin and J. Aughenbaugh, and a pay stub purporting to be from Verizon Communications showing Yurgin as an employee, born August 23, 1980, showing that he earned $92,000 per year as a manager and had SSN XXX-XX-4577, which actually belonged to a male born in 1964. (The defendants birthday is in 1968.)

That same SSN was used to acquire at least 25 credit cards including cards for Todd Yurgin, Tadd Yurgin, Matthew Yurgin, and Joshua Yurgin.

Yurgin obtained communication services from Verizon for the West Deptford property, but he used an SSN XXX-XX-4478, belonging to a minor female born in 2000. On the same app, he gives his birthdate as September 4, 1986 and claims to be an aide at the University of Pennsylvania.


Using the name "Tristan Yurgin" and an SSN XXX-XX-5009, the two applied for a Citibank card. That SSN belongs to a minor child.

COUNT FIVE - Title 18 USC Section 1957 - "engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from unlawful activity"

Transferring $17,000 from a PNC Bank Account into a WSFS bank account under their control.

COUNT SIX - Title 18 USC Section 1028A(a)(1) - Aggravated Identity Theft

Possessing and using without lawful authority the means of identification of another person during and in relation to Social Security Fraud.

COUNT SEVEN - Social Security Fraud

Presenting an application to Citi Financial Corp claiming to be Jonathan P. Aughenjbaugh with SSN XXX-XX-0002, which they knew to not be an SSN assigned to that name, but rather to a minor child.

COUNT EIGHT - Social Security Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft

COUNT NINE - Title 18 USC Section 111 - Assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers

Todd Yurgin knowingly did forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, and interfere with United States Social Security Adminstration Office of the Inspector General Special Agent Kevin Huse, and engaged in acts involving physical contact while Special Agent Huse was engaged in his official duties


Because of Counts 1-8, the defendants forfeited:

A silver and blue Mercury Mariner, a black Dodge Avenger, a 2.1 carat diamond, a .5 carat diamond ring, a three stone ring, ten "Presidential First Spouse" gold coins, five gift cards to Bailey, Banks & Biddle jewelry store, a Cannon SD550 ELPH camera, , nine other gift cards, a Gucci handbag, a Cartier 21 watch, two Dell computers, a Compaq computer, and many other pieces of jewelry.

The Sentencing Memorandom was quite extensive - 32 pages. It begins with the recap that Aughenbaugh had no maternal influence, moved fifteen times, lost his grandmother and his father, endured physical and sexual abuse on an almost constant basis and "with his sixth grade education he was easily influenced to break the law by close members of his family who he would expect to be only thinking of his best interests." The memo tells a truly tragic story of an early childhood of being bullied, living with a verbally abusive uncle who called him a "Nazi Bastard." The defendant tells his own story of his tragic childhood, including having his Uncle Wade leave his dog out on a cold night causing him to freeze to death, and being repeatedly sexually molested for a period of three or four years by the sons of his father's girlfriend. At his next address a cousin, Charles, forced him to perform sex on himself and two friends on a regular basis, lighting his clothes on fire, threatening him with knives and guns, and locking him into a trunk. At the next address, classmates forced him to have oral sex and beat him. After that, his father never enrolled him in school again. When his father became ill, Aughenbaugh began kiting checks to pay his medical bills. When he lost his house, he moved in with a homosexual man he met on AOL chat. After that ended disastrously, Aughenbaugh, then Calvin Ashley Harris, married, became a Mormon, and changed his name in 1996 to Lord Joseph Helaman Mormon Aughenbaugh. Lord Joseph, for Joseph Smith, Helaman, a hero in the book of Mormon who leads an army of children to conquer an enemy army, Mormon, for his new-found faith, and Aughenbaugh, the name of his new wife Janette, a widow with five children. The marriage lasted less than a year. He had a series of jobs, including cleaning motel rooms at several motels, working at Jury Box Restaurant, driving for a graphics company, working at Hardees, working at a loan office, working at a Westin Inn, a grocery store, a temp agency, Zion's Bank, and finally Jury Box Courtside Coffee Shops before returning to North Carolina. There he worked for Carolina Builders, Panera Bread, Warner Brothers, Wal-Mart, and Kay Bee Toys. In Philadelphia he worked for Rite Aid, and Macy's in New York. When he settled in Bear, Delaware, he worked at Mitchell Temporary Services, Butler County Publishing, P&R Environmental Industries, and Britt Enterprises.

In 1997, Aughenbaugh was sentenced to 14 months for violation of Title 18 sections 1341 (Mail Fraud), 1343 (Fraud by Wire, Radio or Television) and 1344 (Bank Fraud).
See USA v. Aughenbaugh Eastern District of North Carolina, CASE #: 5:97-cr-00155-H-1.

He was sentenced to 14 months, with 5 years supervised release, and ordered to pay $28,300 in restitution.

Shortly after his release, he met Todd Yurgin in Butner, North Carolina. They lived for a time with Todd's sister, but left to move to San Francisco, then Tennessee and then Kentucky. Todd was sent back to prison, arrested in 2001 after having his probation revoked, ordered to serve ten more months. About a year after he was released, he and Todd Yurgin moved to Philadelphia and then to New Jersey where they lived with Todd's sister and worked together cleaning houses. Finally, they moved to Delaware, where they purchased the trailer and began their new careers as identity thieves.

While all of these factors point to a tragic life where finding regular employment was difficult, crime still merits punishment, and Aughenbaugh was sentenced to twelve years. Todd Yurgin has still not been tried.

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