A file photo shows Visa credit cards. (Jenny Kane/AP Photo)
A San Fernando Valley man was charged in federal court Oct. 24 for allegedly stealing $2.6 million from Beverly Hills residents.
A federal grand jury indicted Oren David Sela, 35, from North Hills, about 25 miles north of Los Angeles, on eight counts related to stealing mail, fake identifications, and identity theft.
In all, Mr. Sela faces three counts of bank fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, one count of possession of 15 or more unauthorized electronic devices, one count of unlawful possession of at least five identity documents, and two counts of possession of stolen mail.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, court documents allege Mr. Sela stole mail from Beverly Hills residents between November 2021 and October 2023. He is suspected of using the stolen mail to obtain debit cards, bank account numbers, credit cards, telephone numbers, and other personal identification information.
Mr. Sela is also suspected of using the identification information to gain access to victims’ bank accounts.
In some cases, federal authorities allege Mr. Sela would use a process called “SIM swapping”—a process used by hackers to convince cell phone carriers to switch a mobile number over to the thief’s number. After gaining control of the phone number, the hacker can change passwords to the accounts that use that number to verify bank accounts and other programs.
After accessing the victims’ bank accounts, federal authorities allege Mr. Sela would open more accounts in the victims’ names and transfer funds from the victims’ accounts into the fraudulent accounts. He allegedly then would withdraw funds from the fake accounts or use them to make unauthorized purchases or money transfers.
Mr. Sela is also suspected by authorities of having debit and credit cards linked to the victims’ accounts to be sent directly to him, and then using those cards to make purchases, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The defendant was arrested in December 2022 for allegedly driving a stolen car, according to an affidavit filed in the case. When he was arrested, law enforcement said they found six debit and credit cards in his possession in the names of four victims.
During a search of Mr. Sela’s home at the time in West Hollywood, law enforcement reportedly uncovered a large amount of stolen mail containing personal identification, bank statements, and account information from at least 18 victims.
Police said they also found seven debit and credit cards that belonged to fraud victims, and checks and receipts for expensive items, including a watch worth nearly $17,000 that was purchased using victims’ money, according to the affidavit.
Mr. Sela was found with about 33 pieces of stolen mail in December 2022 and at least 118 pieces of stolen mail on Oct. 10, the indictment alleges.
Four victims lost about $2.6 million, according to court documents. At least 20 more victims have been identified.
If convicted on all charges, Mr. Sela would face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for each bank fraud count, up to 10 years for the possession of unauthorized electronic devices and for unlawful possession of identity documents, and a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for each possession of stolen mail count, and two years in prison for the aggravated identity theft count.
The U.S. Secret Service and the Beverly Hills Police Department are continuing to investigate the case.