$937 crime victim
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen recently donated $300 million to brain research, and perhaps one of the first questions scientists could answer is what was AWOL soldier Brandon Lee Price thinking when he allegedly stole billionaire Allen's ID and went to the Dollar Store to cash in? That's part of what FBI agent Joseph Ondercin says happened, anyway, in federal court papers (below) unsealed yesterday in Pittsburgh.
$937 crime victim
Ondercin says Price telephoned Citibank's customer service department on January 9 and was somehow able to convince the bank to change the Seattle address on Allen's account to Price's address, 6211 Station Street, in Pittsburgh. Says the FBI agent in his criminal complaint affidavit:
Your affiant notes that the Paul Allen in question is the co-founder of Microsoft and resides in Washington state. The caller additionally added [his] phone number (412) 956-3723 to the account.
On January 12, "an individual identifying himself as Paul Allen" called the bank and said he'd misplaced his debit card somewhere around the house. He had the bank send him a new card, to the Station Street address in Pittsburgh. (Allen's available debit amount is not revealed in court papers, but go ahead and imagine any princely sum).
Apparently no master criminal, Price signed for the UPS delivery of Allen's debit card as "Price," says Ondercin.
Over the next several weeks, says the indictment, Price began to spend the billionaire's money - but not particularly like a man who'd just discovered a gold mine.
On January 13, his inaugural use of the card, he spent all of $658.81 to bring his military bank loan up to date, the FBI says. On January 14, he spent $278.18 at the Gamestop store in Pittsburgh. And on January 15:
A purchase of $1.00 was attempted with Allen's debit card ending in x23 at the Family Dollar Store (next to Domino's Pizza) in East Liberty, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
It's unclear whether anyone challenged Price's alleged use of the card. But it is clear he doesn't look much like the white billionaire Allen. As Ondercin notes, surveillance video from both the Gamestop and Dollar stores "shows an African-American male attempting the purchase wearing a black and gray windbreaker style jacket bearing the name 'Army'..." That was Price, according to court papers.
By February 7, Ondercin was hot on Price's heels. The agent had just learned Price was AWOL from the Army as of June, 2010, and was now wanted as a deserter. Two days later, agents watched Price leave the Station Street address and walk to a phone. They apparently watched him for several weeks thereafter, court records indicate, and arrested him near the end of February.
Now in federal custody, Price allegedly did have one inspired big-money moment: shortly after obtaining Allen's card, he used it in a telephone transaction to request a $15,000 cash withdrawal through Western Union. Apparently it failed: Ondercin characterizes the effort as an "attempted transaction."
Thus, in actual money allegedly stolen from the world's 48th richest ($14.2 billion) human? Exactly $936.99, give or take that dollar from the Dollar Store.