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DA: Man stole IDs of brain injury victims

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota speaks next

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota speaks next to a photo of Ben Achampong, who was charged with identify theft and filing false tax returns in Hauppauge. (April 17, 2012) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

A man who was supposed to help care for people with severe brain injuries instead saw them as a moneymaking opportunity and stole their identities to collect tax refunds, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said Monday.

"This is about a shameless, incorrigible thief who has no moral standards whatsoever," Spota said at a news conference in Hauppauge where he announced the charges. "He's the lowest of the low."

Benjamin Achampong, 30, formerly of Coram and Port Jefferson Station, was a manager in 2006 and 2007 for the Long Island Head Injury Association, a Hauppauge agency that cares for people who have suffered strokes, brain disease or head accidents. Spota said Achampong harvested patients' names and Social Security numbers, then filed electronic tax returns in their names.

Spota said Achampong, who holds dual U.S. and Ghana citizenship, made up employment details and income, and had refunds deposited directly to bank accounts he controlled. He was able to get about $20,000 from New York State, $30,000 from New Jersey and an undetermined amount from the federal government, Spota said.

A spokesman for the Long Island Head Injury Association, Andy Kraus, said, "The agency is shocked and appalled by the possible victimization of our clients by this former employee."

Spota said the association cooperated fully during a 14-month investigation. One reason it took so long, he said, is that many of the identity theft victims were so incapacitated they could not talk with investigators.

"We could get very little information from them," he said.

After Achampong left that job, he continued the same criminal behavior, other law enforcement agencies have said.

He was placed on probation in Nassau County in 2010 for taking over the bank account of a dead man who lived in a home for developmentally disabled adults where Achampong later worked. In that case, Achampong obtained a debit card in the man's name to use for himself, the Nassau district attorney's office said.

Then he moved to Georgia, where he was charged in 2011 with using a fake credit card. Investigators there found he had 16 fake credit cards, and a machine for making them, Spota said. He accused Achampong of setting up an export business in Delaware using fake identities to ship cars, clothes and other items to Ghana.

Achampong used the proceeds from his various crimes to support several girlfriends in the area and for a comfortable lifestyle, Spota said, noting that he drove a Range Rover.

In Suffolk, Achampong has been indicted on 20 counts each of second-degree identity theft and offering a false instrument for filing, six counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument and one count each of third-degree grand larceny and fourth-degree attempted grand larceny.

At arraignment Friday, he pleaded not guilty before Suffolk County Court Judge Gary Weberand is being held on $50,000 bail. If convicted he faces 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.

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