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Identity Data Thief Faces New Charges

Times Staff Writer

An admitted identity thief whose case sparked a national outcry over the security of personal data has been indicted on 22 new charges and an alleged accomplice has been arrested as authorities ratchet up their investigation into the breach at ChoicePoint Inc.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said Tuesday that Olatunji Oluwatosin, 42, of North Hollywood would face as many as 22 years in prison if convicted on all charges, which include grand theft, identity theft and conspiracy to commit computer access fraud.

Oluwatosin pleaded no contest in February to one felony count for his role in a fraud ring that stole data from ChoicePoint, one of the nation’s largest aggregators of personal information.

He was sentenced to 16 months in state prison. With time off for good behavior, Oluwatosin was about to be released this month when six felony charges were filed to keep him incarcerated. Deputy Dist. Atty. Jonathan Fairlough said Tuesday that those charges would be dropped in favor of the indictment.

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Oluwatosin’s lawyer, Jacques T. Fox of Hollywood, accused Cooley of using the indictment as leverage against his client as authorities continued to investigate the identity theft ring.

“It was done possibly to put pressure on Mr. Oluwatosin,” Fox said, “to cooperate or give information.” Oluwatosin is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 7.

Also arrested was Kabiru Ipaye, 43, of Encino, who pleaded not guilty to 10 felony charges, including receiving stolen property.

Each man is being held in lieu of $2.5-million bail.

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Calling Los Angeles “one of the capitals” of identity theft crimes, Cooley said the ring to which Oluwatosin and Ipaye allegedly belonged was able to access 145,000 records maintained by Georgia-based ChoicePoint, which sells personal data about people to landlords, law enforcement agencies and the federal government.

“We hope and pray,” Cooley said, that there will be more arrests. “We think [identity theft] is the greatest threat to financial institutions in the nation.”

But as a victim of identity theft himself, Cooley blamed ChoicePoint and other major data aggregators for not adequately protecting such information as Social Security numbers and addresses used by identity thieves to open fake credit card accounts.

“ChoicePoint has a lot to answer for,” Cooley said.

Carol DiBattiste, ChoicePoint’s head of compliance and privacy, said the company had taken steps to shore up data security.

“ChoicePoint is very sorry for what happened,” she said, “and ChoicePoint has put significant policies and procedures in place so this will not happen again.”


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