Saturday, August 09, 2008

ID Scam Targeted Victims of Nazis
August 7, 2008

PRINCE GEORGE — A man currently serving time in the Federal Correctional Institute may face an additional 76 years in prison and a $2.7 million fine, said the U.S. Attorneys’ Office.

John Kenneth Leighnor Jr., 49, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday on three counts of mail fraud and eight counts of aggravated identity theft in connection to taking money from Holocaust survivors and their descendents.

Court records said Leighnor began picking his victims between April 2005 and June 2008 from reading obituaries of Holocaust victims. He also persuaded the Embassy of Switzerland to mail him a list of Swiss bank accounts that included the “names of owners and Power of Attorney Holders of Swiss bank accounts that were open or opened between 1933 and 1935 and whose owners were probably or possibly victims of Nazi persecution.”

Court documents from 1989 say Leighnor was first sentenced in Texas in 1985 for mail fraud. Two months later, he escaped from a federal prison camp and fled to the former country of West Germany with a false passport.

The U.S. Attorneys’ Office said Leighnor used his knowledge of the German language, society and institutions — as well as knowledge of European society and institutions — to obtain further information to obtain information for the identity thefts. Leighnor is an American national but spend several years in Germany as an adult, court documents said. In sending correspondence to obtain official documents for the victims, Leighnor allegedly pretended to be his targeted victim or a lawyer, advocate or other designee for the targeted victim. Return correspondence to the prison was concealed through varying addresses, such as to “Dept. 14375-077, P.O. Box 1000, Petersburg, VA.” Leighnor’s prisoner identification number was 14375-077.

The U.S. Attorneys’ Office said Leighnor was either going to use the victims’ identity to obtain passports, birth certificates, driver’s licenses and European Union Identification Cards to travel and obtain money or petition the Claims Resolution Tribunal to lay claims on Swiss Bank accounts believed to be abandoned by victims of the Holocaust.

Along with a potential fine and additional years of prison time, Leighnor may have to pay full restitution for any losses incurred by the victims. Leighnor was projected to be released from the facility Jan. 14, 2009.