Ringleader in $1.1 million ID theft ring pleads guilty

The ringleader of a Philadelphia bank fraud and identity theft ring pleaded guilty today to a laundry list of charges after five days of a trial.

Benjamin "Shaft" Easley, 36, admitted his role in a scheme that stole -- or attempted to steal -- more than $1.1 million from a group of local banks, federal prosecutors said. Easley, of Drexel Hill, obtained the personal information of bank customers and recruited a dozen "check runners" who were given counterfeit IDs. The runners were sent banks throughout the region to cash bogus checks, conduct fraudulent withdrawals or make illegal wire transfers from the accounts of their victims. 

The scheme, which began in Nov. 2009, came to an abrupt end in Dec. 2011 when Easley was arrested attempting to conduct a bogus transaction at a Radnor Township bank. Today, Easley pleaded guilty to seven counts of bank fraud, 15 counts of aggravated identity theft and one count of conspiracy. He faces up to 245 years in prison and a fine of up to $11 million when he is sentenced. 

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