A federal jury yesterday convicted a man described as the "mastermind" of a massive fraud scheme in which hundreds of prospective purchases of cars and other property in the Washington area had their adverse credit histories laundered for a fee.
Eddie Lee Alston, 45, of 1821 L. St. NE, was ordered to jail immediately by U.S. District Judge John J. Sirica after the conviction on 35 counts, including conspiracy and fraud related charges.
The fraud scheme of which Alston was convicted has been described by prosecutors as one of the most wide-spread ever uncovered in the Washington area in terms of the amount of loans issued based on the doctored credit histories. Prosscutors said millions of dollars in credit may have been extended based on the altered files.
As outlined during Alston's trial by Assistant U.S. Attorney Raymond Banoun of the fraud division, Alston recruited an employee of the Credit Bureau, Inc., who would alter the credit files of someone for a fee.
Then, according to Banoun, Alston would have persons at various firms in town - such as automobile agencies - refer to him persons who would apply for loans but would be rejected.
The rejected credit applicant would then pay a fee ranging from $300 to $800 to Alston to have his credit history altered, Banoun said. Alston would keep most of the money and the others involved in the credit-altering chain would get various portions of the money, according to testimony at Alston's trial.
The Credit Bureau employee, who received probation after a guilty plea, testified that she had altered at least 100 files a year for a three-year period. The amount of money involved in each loan ultimately received based on the altered files ranged from $2,000 to $10,000, according to Banoun.
Banoun argued that the altering of the files affected the integrity of the credit system, and that additional costs could be passed on to consumers if firms could not rely on a central credit bureau system to check out prospective customers.
Alston said that in his years as a credit manager for a downtown jewelry store and as a debt collection agent, he had encountered numerous people who had been unfairly treated by the credit system and he was attempting to help them by referring them to the credit bureau employee. Alston denied receiving any money and said he did not know what the credit bureau employee did after he referred persons to her.
Twelve persons have already pleaded guilty in the credit bureau fraud, and charges are pending against one other defendant.
One investigator said that at the height of the scheme, as an example of its scope, practically every car dealership in the Washington area had a salesman who could make contacts with someone to have a credit history altered.
"The word was out on the street that you could pay money and get a whole new credit history," said one investigator. "People were getting several new credit histories over a short period of time so they could buy big cars and keep them for a short while."