Defendant stole more than $1 million from 15 victims and business owners
Atlanta–Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr., announces the THEFT BY TAKING, COMPUTER THEFT, and IDENTITY FRAUD, guilty plea of 36-year-old JOSEPH BROWN.
Between April of 2014 and November 11, 2015, Joseph Brown concocted a scheme to steal more than $1.1 million from 15 victims, including plastic surgeons, doctors, and restaurant owners. When someone swipes their credit card at a business, the transaction is handled by a credit card processing company. For more than a year and a half, Brown called a local credit card processing company 345 times to gather pieces of information about customer accounts managed by the credit card processing company. Eventually, Brown obtained enough information about more than a dozen of these accounts to authenticate himself as the owner of the businesses. Brown convinced the credit card processor to divert funds from these accounts into multiple fraudulent bank accounts. Brown also tricked the local credit card processing company into emailing him original contracts and applications related to these accounts. That allowed the defendant to gain access to the victims’ personal identifying information, such as social security numbers.
Brown actually stole more than $1.1 million during this year and a half period; however, some of the transactions were reversed due to inquiries from the actual customers. In all, Brown pocketed more than $450,000. The case was brought to the attention of the Atlanta Police Department when one of the victims in Orlando, Florida called Detective K. Stapler of APD’s Major Fraud Unit to file a complaint about a diversion of $5,800 from his Lobster Lighthouse Restaurant account into a fraudulent Atlanta bank account. Detective Stapler obtained information about the fraudulent account and pictures of Brown withdrawing money from an ATM machine. On November 11, 2015, APD’s Major Fraud Unit executed search warrants at Brown’s home and arrested the defendant. Dozens of credit cards, driver’s licenses in other people’s names, bank account documents for fraudulent accounts, home loan documents, laptops, iPads, cell phones, $145,000 in cash, and $23,000 in blank money orders were all discovered in the home.
BROWN pled guilty to THEFT BY TAKING, COMPUTER THEFT, IDENTITY FRAUD, and POSSESSION OF A FIREARM BY A CONVICTED FELON.
Brown was sentenced as a no-parole recidivist to
30 YEARS IN PRISON TO SERVE 17.
BROWN was also ordered to pay $450,000 in restitution to the local credit card processing company.
Brown has (26) previous arrests and (9) prior felony convictions in DeKalb, Cobb, Douglas, and Fulton counties. Brown was sentenced to 10 years of probation in Cobb County in 2012 for Identity Fraud.
Senior Judge Grant Brantley, of the Superior Court of Cobb County, presided over the case in place of Judge Shawn LaGrua, of the Superior Court of Fulton County. Deputy District Attorney, Brad Malkin, of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office White Collar Crimes Unit, led the prosecution of the case. He was assisted by Assistant District Attorney Kristal Ingram, Investigator Mike Hill, and Legal Assistant Dean Kyriakou of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. Detective K. Stapler from the Atlanta Police Department was the Lead Investigator in this case.