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Tuesday, 20 March, 2001, 17:56 GMT
Dish washer 'cleaned up in internet fraud'
Mr Abdallah denies trying to defraud New York banks
Mr Abdallah denies trying to defraud New York banks
A New York restaurant worker has been accused of swindling some of America's richest people out of millions of dollars in an online ID-stealing scam.


He was everywhere, pretending to be everyone, when he was really in New York, sometimes working in a restaurant kitchen

New York police source
Abraham Abdallah, 32, allegedly stole the identities of household names including film director Stephen Spielberg and chat show host Oprah Winfrey before raiding their bank accounts.

Police claim Mr Abdallah masterminded his fraud from the kitchens of the restaurant where he worked, using a WAP phone and forged paperwork.

He allegedly accessed the internet at his local library.

Rich list

Investigators claim Mr Abdallah used a tattered copy of the Forbes list of America's richest people to pick his targets.

The full extent of his alleged fraud is still under investigation by authorities across the US.

Mr Abdallah denies criminal possession of forged devices and stolen property and criminal impersonation.

Investigators claim he tricked credit reference companies into giving out vital financial details of the rich and famous using forged letterheads.

He allegedly claimed he was from some of the world's most prestigious banks and investment houses, including Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs.

'Famous victims'

When police searched Mr Abdallah's New York flat they found false stationery and forged company stamps.

Next to the biographies of the rich and famous in Forbes, Mr Abdullah had allegedly scribbled their home addresses, mobile phone numbers and even their mother's maiden names.

Police claim he used the details to 'clone' the celebrities' identities, moving millions of their dollars into bank accounts he had set up.

"He was everywhere, pretending to be everyone, when he was really in New York, sometimes working in a restaurant kitchen," a police source told the New York Post newspaper.

Mr Abdallah allegedly raided the bank accounts of the super rich, including Mr Spielberg, Star Wars director George Lucas, former presidential candidate Ross Perot and CNN founder Ted Turner.

Other victims are alleged to have included Disney chief executive Michael Eisner and one of the founders of Microsoft, but not Bill Gates.

Police allege Mr Abdallah kept a low profile by having packages containing the cheques he fraudulently wrote picked up by couriers and taken on complicated routes to elude detection and using a voice mail system to retrieve messages from banks.

Caught out

Police say Mr Abdallah was caught out when investment bank Merrill Lynch received an e-mail request to transfer $10m (6.99m) from the account of computer tycoon Thomas Siebel to an Australian bank account.

The bank found out Mr Siebel had not requested the transfer and called in internet fraud detectives Michael Fabozzi and Jahmal Daise of the New York Police Department, starting a lengthy and complex investigation.

Mr Abdallah has denied any wrongdoing.

He faces federal fraud charges but his lawyer declined to comment.

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