A Washington state man who admitted using the LimeWire file-sharing program to steal tax returns and other sensitive documents has been sentenced to more than three years in federal prison.
Frederick Eugene Wood of Seattle was ordered to serve 39 months for a fraud scheme that prosecutors said was a "particularly pernicious and devious one." In it, Wood would search the hard drives of LimeWire users for files that contained words such as "statement," "account" and "tax.pdf." He would then download tax returns, bank statements, and other sensitive documents and use them to forge counterfeit checks and steal the identity of the individuals who filled out the documents.
Seattle detectives and federal agents found documents on Wood's computers belonging to some 120 victims, according to court documents. During a search of Wood's vehicle, they found eight different driver licenses in his wallet, each bearing Wood's picture with the names, addresses, and birth dates of different individuals.
The case highlights the risk assumed by countless people who install LimeWire or other file sharing software on their computers and don't take the time to properly configure it. It seems a surprisingly large percentage of users share their entire hard drive over the services, rather than a select folder or two containing only the files they want shared.
Wood was an associate of Gregory Thomas Kopiloff, another Seattle man who received four years in prison for a similar fraud scheme. Court documents state that Wood is believed to have taught Kopiloff how to use LimeWire to carry out the scam.
Wood's demise started in November of 2007, when he placed an ad on Craigslist offering a MacBook Pro for sale. Posing as someone named Ken, he accepted a check for $1,500 in exchange for a sealed box that he claimed contained the laptop. When the buyer opened it, he found nothing more than a book and a glass vase.
Wood pleaded guilty to three felony counts of wire fraud, accessing a computer without authorization to further fraud, and aggravated identity theft. In addition to his prison sentence, he was also ordered to pay more than $25,700 in restitution. ®