Southwest Portland computer whiz gets 18 months after selling fake IDs across U.S.
Jan 29, 2013 (The Oregonian - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A 31-year-old computer whiz who sold fake IDs to college students -- then soon found himself in over his head as drug-fueled identity thieves began demanding his services -- was sentenced to 1 1/2 years in prison.
Nicholas Nasser Aliabadi's case stands out because of the high quality of the counterfeit IDs, the volume he sold to people across the country and who he was -- someone who likely could have gotten a high-paying job in Oregon's high-tech industry.
Aliabadi began making bogus driver's licenses, presumably for youths who wanted to go out drinking, investigators said.
"He marketed primarily to college students, but he doesn't know what these people are using these things for," said Deputy District Attorney Kevin Demer, who prosecuted the case.
Apparently through word of mouth, Aliabadi became successful enough to make a living off the profits that rolled in as he sold the IDs through the mail to customers nationwide, from California to New York, investigators said. His counterfeits were particularly convincing because he was able to duplicate data on magnetic strips that some states use on driver's licenses.
Aliabadi fell in with a seedy crowd, however, when local identity thieves began showing up at his Southwest Portland apartment near Multnomah Village.
An informant tipped Portland police to Aliabadi, and when officers searched his home last April, they found close to 100 fake IDs ready to be mailed out. They also found the discarded plastic edges from hundreds of other IDs that he had apparently already shipped to customers.
Police learned that Aliabadi also had the equipment to produce credit cards. They found that Aliabadi had collected Social Security numbers, birth dates and credit reports on some real people -- perhaps to determine whose identities were worth stealing.
Demer, the prosecutor, said he believes that local ID thieves had enlisted Aliabadi's services, and that they'd been spending time at his home -- as evidenced by belongings they left behind. That included stolen mail.
After Aliabadi's arrest, he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. Those diagnosed with Asperger's may exhibit social awkwardness and find themselves all-consumed in specific tasks.
Investigators believe Aliabadi may have had trouble saying "no" to some of those customers demanding his services.
"He's not nefarious," said defense attorney Matthew McHenry.
Last month, Aliabadi pleaded guilty in Multnomah County Circuit Court to 10 counts of identity theft. On Monday, Judge Kenneth Walker sentenced him to 1 1/2 years prison. With good time, he could end up serving a little more than a year.
The judge also sentenced him to five years of probation. If he fails to follow the terms of his probation, he could go back to prison for six years.
Aliabadi told the judge he knows he was wrong.
"There's no excuse for the kind of behavior I exhibited," he said. "I understand why the identity theft laws are so hard, because it's just a scourge on society. And serial identity thieves need to be locked up for a long time."
He said he hopes to use his computer training for good.
"I've just been using my skills for the wrong things," he said.
McHenry told the judge that his client now has set in place "a very clear path to success."
He has been seeing a counselor. And since last month, he has developed a Blackberry app that he's pushed out to market.
"He's very employable," McHenry said.
-- Aimee Green; Follow o_aimee on Twitter
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