If you can’t trust your family, who can you trust?
A North Carolina credit repair company operator has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison for creating fake police reports to clean up the bad credit of his clients and enlisting his family to help run a $3.4 million credit card fraud scheme at Lowe’s LOW,
Michael Griffin, 53, was involved in the credit card fraud with seven relatives, including his wife, daughter, two brothers and three sisters, one of whom was an online chaplain. Prosecutors said the scheme involved creating “artificial identities” based on children’s stolen Social Security numbers.
“Like a heavy, heavy anchor, he brought down his entire family,” U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle said in sentencing Griffin on Wednesday, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
All of Griffin’s relatives pleaded guilty in the case in October and were sentenced to up to 14 months in prison.
The letter left with Griffin’s attorney was not immediately returned.
False police reports
The investigation into Griffin began in 2019 when authorities accused him of filing false police reports with credit rating agencies that his clients — some of whom had paid $3,000 for his credit repair services — were victims of identity theft. Often the stunt worked and Griffin’s clients were unaware of what he had done, according to court documents.
Prosecutors say Griffin performed the fraud on behalf of nearly 600 clients of his credit repair business.
After he was indicted, the case expanded after investigators determined that Griffin had engaged in something called synthetic identity theft, in which a stolen Social Security number is often paired with a fake name, thus creating a false identity.
Prosecutors say that at one point Griffin used such a fake ID to obtain a car loan to purchase a 2018 Hyundai Genesis for $73,000.
Then the scam expanded into credit card fraud. Griffin has been accused of enlisting members of his family to help apply for dozens of Lowe’s credit cards issued by Synchrony SYF,
Prosecutors said the bank was using artificial identities.
Messages left with representatives for Synchrony and Lowe were not immediately returned.
Investigators say Griffin will then raise the limits on accounts to buy prepaid cash cards and then walk away from the credit card. Prosecutors say Griffin also deceived other financial institutions with a similar ploy.
Griffin pleaded guilty to fraud in August and was sentenced Wednesday to 100 months in federal prison. He was also ordered to pay $400,000 in compensation.