-- A "shameless" thief stole the identities of dozens of brain-injured people on Long Island, using their personal information to file false tax returns in New York and New Jersey and keep the refund money for himself, prosecutors said Monday.
Benjamin Achampong is charged with four dozen counts of grand larceny and identity theft. He is accused of stealing the identities of 56 patients at the Long Island Head Injury Association, where he worked as a manger.
"Patients who suffered a traumatic brain injury have really no choice but to trust others," Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said. "This fellow knew this and he took advantage of that. He's shameless. He's an incorrigible thief and he has absolutely no moral fiber at all."
According to court records, Achampong, beginning in 2006, accessed patient records to steal Social Security numbers and other data he used to file false tax returns. The filings were made electronically with New York and New Jersey and with the federal government. Investigators suspect he may have also filed in other states.
"It was a very easy scheme," Spota said. "He would always ask for monetary returns of just enough money not to arouse suspicion."
Spota said Achampong received refund checks in amounts from $200 to $2,000, which he deposited in 16 different bank accounts he controlled. The scheme went undetected for years because the alleged victims could not help investigators unravel it.
"It took quite a bit of time because many of the people with brain injury couldn't cooperate with us," Spota said.
He described one alleged victim as an Ivy League student who had been assaulted. His brain damage was so extensive investigators could talk to him for less than a minute at a time before he forgot who they were.
Achampong has pleaded not guilty.
Achampong's record shows a history of targeting people coping with tragic circumstances. He was arrested in 2009 for stealing the identity of a developmentally disabled man who had died.
"Identity theft is a very serious matter," said Thomas Mattox, New York's commissioner of taxation and finance. "It is even more troubling when it is alleged that the victim is a person with disabilities."