Online Romance Leads to $1.2 Million Fraud
An Ohio man allegedly used the allures of a romantic relationship to get a woman who worked at a California credit union to open nearly $3 million in fraudulent lines of credit that led to more than $1.2 million in losses, according an FBI cybercrimes investigator.
Phillip Cook, 50, of South Euclid, Ohio, was arrested July 28 by U.S. Marshals and remains in federal custody on a criminal complaint filed by the FBI in California. Cook will be asking a federal judge in Cleveland next week to reconsider his detention and an order to transport him to California to face charges.
In November 2014, Indira Mohabir, 41, of La Habra, Calif., was working as a business loan processor for then Western Federal Credit Union, which changed its name in 2016 to the $2.7 billion UNIFY Financial Federal Credit Union in Torrance. Around that time, she became involved in an online relationship with Cook. Mohabir was charged last year with financial institution fraud, conspiracy to commit financial institution fraud and unauthorized issuance of credit union obligations.
She pleaded not guilty to the charges and is scheduled to stand trial in October in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
“Mohabir and Cook were engaged in a long distance romantic relationship that they carried out through text messages and other communications,” FBI Special Agent Nicholas Myers said in an affidavit. “And Cook would send Mohabir gifts and checks and suggest that he would take her on trips and continue to engage in a romantic relationship with her in exchange for her assistance in bypassing the necessary approvals at WFCU to open unsecured lines of credit.”
According to Myers, on November 22, 2014 Mohabir and Cook exchanged the following text messages
Mohabir: “I just got everything omg…..Why is there a check with my name on it???? I love the card by the way…. Going down to the branch let me see what I can get done for you…$200 in your personal account, right?”
Cook: “Thanks my baby. The cashiers check is my show of appreciation and love for u…..
Four days later on November 26 Mohabir texted Cook: “I have too much access here :) What’s up with your tax returns?”
Cook: “What u mean?”
Mohabir: “Obviously there is a concern with [is] verification.”
From November 2014 to January 15, 2015, Mohabir opened more than 30 lines of credit of credit for Cook. He provided the former business loan processor with information about businesses and persons in whose names the lines of credit were to be opened, including the names and Social Security numbers of these persons without their knowledge or consent, according to court documents.
She also opened lines of credit for Cook under a business name, Evolution Management, in Pepper Pike for which Cook is the registered agent. Via a JP Morgan bank account, he also was connected to another business, Evolution MGT Group LTD in Snellville, Ga.
Through the credit union’s business platinum Visa program, Mohabir opened the unsecured lines of credit for Cook and his businesses without the necessary documentation and application paperwork and without the necessary approvals from the credit union’s loan officers and supervisors.
Knowing that individual lines of credit through this Visa program were capped at $50,000, Mohabir managed to increase these lines of credit to $100,000. She also opened $100,000 lines of credit through this Visa program in violation of the credit union’s policies and procedures.
To conceal her fraud, Mohabir omitted references to the lines of credit from weekly reports and task lists that she sent to her supervisor, according to court documents. She also neglected to forward underlying documentation that the credit union required to a group email address that gave her supervisors access to the documents. She also sent these documents related to these lines of credit sent to her personal email account. Federal investigators said Mohabir would then work on these lines of credit from her home and from her office workspace when her supervisor was not in the office.
Through the businesses, Cook drew down these lines of credit in the amount of $1,216,123 and he did not make any payments to the credit union, according to court documents.