A Russian scam artist accused of stealing more than $1.5 million from victims chosen from the Forbes 400 list of wealthy Americans was sentenced Wednesday to 3½ to 10½ years in prison.
Igor Klopov received the sentence after pleading guilty in February to charges of grand larceny and identity theft. He admitted his role in organizing and running an Internet identity theft ring that prosecutors said targeted rich U.S. citizens.
Prosecutors said Klopov, 25, ran the operation from his Moscow home, where he mined the internet for information about potential victims, including Texas billionaire Charles J. Wyly Jr., a friend of President George W. Bush.
Klopov ordered a checkbook for Wyly's bank account, prosecutors say. They say he was arrested in May 2007 when he came to New York to claim $7 million in gold that he was fooled into believing had been bought with money stolen from Wyly.
Four Klopov accomplices were later arrested and ultimately pleaded guilty. One was sentenced to a year in jail, another to six months and a third was given a conditional discharge, meaning that the charges would be dropped if he was not arrested again within a year. The fourth will be sentenced in December.
Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney's office said at the time of Klopov's indictment that he "found many of his victims through the Forbes 400 list."
They said many of the victims lived in states -- such as Texas and California -- where property and deed information is available online. Klopov was therefore able to get information easily about property values, mortgages sizes and credit lines.
The targets generally had large lines of credit, prosecutors said.
The yearlong investigation to nail Klopov, a joint effort with federal law enforcement agencies, began in 2006 when an undercover investigator with the district attorney's office assumed the online identity of a Klopov accomplice.
The investigator solidified his relationship with Klopov by leading him to believe he was engaging in illegal activities to further the scheme.