A man imprisoned in a Georgia maximum-security facility is accused of identity theft while behind bars. The inmate is accused of making history by pulling off one of the largest heists perpetrated by someone while incarcerated.
Authorities say some $11 million was swindled from various financial institutions by someone pretending to be a slew of billionaires and using cellphones to facilitate his schemes from prison.
Federal prosecutors have identified Arthur Lee Cofield Jr., 31, as the person who impersonated Sidney Kimmel, a California billionaire, while being locked up in the Georgia Department of Corrections’ Special Management Unit, where he is serving 14 years for armed robbery, FOX News reports.
Cofield was able to get cellphones in the prison, a form of contraband, to execute his deals. One deal he allegedly arranged allowed $11 million to be wired from Kimmel’s Charles Schwab account to an Idaho company to purchase 6,106 American Eagle 1-ounce gold coins.
The prosecution also believes he charged a private plane to transport the coins from the Gem State to Atlanta, and then allegedly used the proceeds to buy a $4.4 million house in Buckhead, GA.
Originally the house was not up for sale, but the owner Michael Zembillas agreed to sell the house to Cofield but changed his mind with a $500,000 cash deposit.
The case was first announced by the Justice Department in December 2020 and for two years have been building their case, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reveals.
The DOJ has indicted Cofield and two accused of being associates on the outside, Eldridge Bennett, 65, and his daughter Eliayah Bennett, 27, of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering. The three have all pleaded not guilty.
Authorities also suggest there may have been others that have fallen victim to his criminal enterprise.
Scott McAfee, a federal prosecutor, said at a bond hearing in December 2020, “Mr. Cofield has figured out a way to access accounts belonging to high-net-worth individuals, frankly billionaires, located across the country.”
The prosecutor said that the DOJ has evidence proving Cofield stole $2.25 million from the wife of Florida billionaire Herbert Wertheim, flipping that money into gold coins also. No criminal charges have been filed in this case.
In addition to allegedly being a con artist, Cofield reportedly is a convicted gang member who was sent to the Special Management Unit after orchestrating a hit on a romantic rival named Antoris Young from inside of a Georgia state prison by other gang members.
Young, 36, was allegedly messing with his girlfriend Selena Holmes, aka Yap Missus. The courts believe Holmes honey-trapped Young, and now she remains the only one convicted in this case, serving 15 years in prison. She opted not to testify against Cofield.
Cofield also is awaiting trial for an attempted murder case, that left one victim paralyzed from his waist down.
The career criminal first went to jail when he was 16 for stealing $2,600 from a branch of First Choice Community Bank in Douglasville.
They also knew that he had the ability to get contraband cellphones and use them to execute his criminal activity. In 2016, when asked during a contraband raid about a Verizon LG touch screen cellphone and charger, he had hidden in his groin area, he said, “I don’t give a (expletive) about that phone, I’ve had hundreds of phones,” after refusing to give a written statement.
He has since been moved from the facility. He has been in federal custody since October 2021.
One warden at the Special Management Unit named Jose Morales said, “Cofield was a shrewd, intelligent individual who could con you out of millions.”
Morales continued, “He was so good at it that we were never able to ascertain how he got them in there.”
Many commenters on the Lipstick Alley believed the dramatics of Cofield’s escapades could be great on the big screen. One person said, “This will make a good movie.”
In disbelief, another person wrote a similar thought, “What in the American Greed kind of story is this? How in the hell is this man able to commit such brazen and multifaceted scams? He obviously has inside people and help from those inside with him, COs too. Just think- what kind of things could he do if he applied his obvious smarts to doing right? This could be a movie.”
One person simply said, “Wow! Impressive.”
Kimmel is the chairman and CEO of the Sidney Kimmel Entertainment company and is one the producing forces for Hollywood films like “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Hell or High Water,” and “Moneyball.”
The 94-year-old founder of Jones New York is worth $1.5 billion, after selling the company for $2.2 billion.
Matthew Kamens, Kimmel’s adviser, gave a statement regarding the crime, “Mr. Kimmel was unaffected by whatever occurred, and we have no knowledge of what occurred, either in terms of background or context.”
After the banks were made aware of the fraud, Kimmel was fully reimbursed by the banks. The Charles Schwab Corporation, the actual victim in the fraud, said, “As soon as Schwab was aware of suspected fraudulent activity, we launched an investigation, initiated measures to protect the client’s account, and notified the authorities.”