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FBI: US man stole Microsoft co-founder's identity

The soldier, who had been absent without leave from the army, managed to change the address on an account held by billionaire Paul Allen.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen
Image: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

A SOLDIER’S PLAN to defraud one of the richest men in the world has landed him in federal custody, according to a criminal complaint.

In the complaint unsealed today, federal investigators allege Brandon Lee Price changed the address on a bank account held by billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, then had a debit card sent to his Pittsburgh home so he could use it for payments on a delinquent Armed Forces Bank account and personal expenses.

Price called Citibank in January and changed the address on an account held by Allen from Seatttle to Pittsburgh, then called back three days later to say he had lost his debit card and asked for a new one to be sent to him, an FBI investigator wrote in a criminal complaint filed in February.

The card was used to attempt a $15,000 (€11,200) Western Union transaction and make a $658.81  (around €490) payment on the Armed Forces Bank loan account the day it was activated, according to the complaint. Surveillance footage also captured him attempting purchases at a video game store and a dollar store, authorities alleged.

Investigators found Price was listed as Absent Without Leave from the Army and wanted as a deserter, authorities said in the complaint. He was arrested on 2 March and ordered detained until 2 April unless the Army takes him into custody.

Unclear how the address on the account was changed

David Postman, a spokesman for Allen, said the fraud was detected by the bank, who alerted law enforcement officials. The only transaction — out of four listed in the complaint totaling $15,936.99 (just under €12,000) — that apparently made it through was the loan payment, Postman said.

The complaint doesn’t specify how Price allegedly changed the address on the account.

A Citibank spokeswoman said the company does not comment on details of security breaches or customer accounts. In a written statement, spokeswoman Catherine Pulley said the company “identified the actions of a fraudulent account takeover and turned the matter over to law enforcement” and “will continue to work with law enforcement in the ongoing investigation.”

Allen made the bulk of his fortune founding Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975. He left the company in 1983 and now owns the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers. He is the founder and chairman of Vulcan Inc., the company that manages his business and charitable undertakings. Forbes estimates Allen’s net worth at $14.2 billion.

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