An Oahu grand jury indicted yesterday the alleged leader of an identity theft ring that is accused of using personal information of 145 Oahu residents to generate fraudulent credit cards and steal $195,000.
Pyong Pak, also known as Peter Pak, was indicted on 78 counts of identity theft-related charges, city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro said. Among the charges are two counts of first-degree identity theft, which each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison without possibility of probation.
Investigators say Pak led a five-man ring that produced high-quality fake IDs, credit cards and checks using information gleaned through methods such as burglaries and auto thefts.
"Identity theft is a major problem, and it’s causing a big hit, especially with the economic situation the way it is today," Kaneshiro said at a news conference. "I think it’s important that law enforcement be on top of it and investigate and prosecute identity theft.
"The $195,000 amount may not be that large, but it has a bigger impact on the victims."
Yesterday’s indictment alleges the men committed the crimes from May 1 to Oct. 27, 2010.
Pak’s alleged co-conspirators were previously indicted. Randy Garcia was indicted on 102 counts and Jefferson Ganado on 41 counts. Al Alvarez, who was indicted on 27 counts, and Arnold Agtang, who was indicted on 48 counts, have agreed to plead guilty and serve 10-year sentences.
All five men are in custody.
The indictment was brought by Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Van Marter, head of the white-collar crime unit in the prosecutor’s office.
Van Marter said the indictments resulted from a 10-month investigation involving the Honolulu Police Department, U.S. Secret Service, Postal Service inspectors, the state Sheriff’s Office and Immigration, Customs and Enforcement.
"Any case of this magnitude really takes a team effort," Van Marter said.
Pak was sentenced in December 2001 to a 10-year prison term after being convicted on similar identity theft charges.
"His prior cases, he is currently on probation for those, and he’ll be on probation until the latter part of the year," Van Marter said. "Those convictions were set aside in 2007, and he was resentenced to probation."
In 2002 the Legislature passed a law doubling the maximum sentence for identity theft. Some have cited the 2001 Pak case as a reason for the Legislature’s decision.