By Bob Uphues
A 21-year-old Plainfield man has been charged with stealing the identities of a Riverside husband and wife on the dark web and then using the information to purchase thousands of dollars' worth of merchandise, rerouting delivery to vacant or foreclosed homes in the southwest suburbs.
Naperville police apprehended Rehan Arif on Feb. 26 after he allegedly picked up packages delivered to a foreclosed, vacant house in the 5600 block of Bergamot Court in Naperville.
Arif remains free while awaiting trial after posting 10 percent of the $10,000 bond set by a Cook County Circuit Court judge at a hearing Feb. 28 at the Maybrook courthouse. His next hearing is scheduled for March 11.
Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said that Will County Sheriff's Police have filed paperwork seeking to revoke Arif's probation related to a case there. According to Will County court records, in 2017 Arif pleaded guilty to a felony drug offense and was sentenced to three years of court supervised release after being credited with 97 days of jail time served. He was also fined $4,420.
According to Riverside police, Arif would use stolen credit card and personal information to order items. He would initially use the victim's home address when ordering the merchandise but later would reroute delivery to a vacant home.
Arif would park his car near the home where the packages were to be delivered and monitor the tracking number on a laptop computer inside his vehicle, according to police. After delivery was made, he would pick up the items and drive away, police said.
Weitzel said Arif used the Riverside couple's information in that way at least three times in February, but they weren't his only victims.
Weitzel said police seized and obtained a search warrant for Arif's 2005 Nissan Sentra, where they found packages addressed to other victims and delivered to a Bolingbrook address. Police have also obtained a warrant for Arif's cellphone and are working to glean additional information from that device.
The Riverside victims have endured repeated attempts by people to use their stolen information to make purchases on the web or obtain cash.
Police say the personal information of both the husband and wife was stolen during a large data breach in 2015 at the University of Chicago's Department of Medicine, where they both worked at the time.
That information was then traded on the dark web, an area of the internet that is not accessible through traditional search engines and which traffics in all manner of illegal merchandise – from stolen identities to weapons and drugs.
In 2018, the victims were notified that their identification had been used by someone to fraudulently obtain $16,000 from a bank in Edgerton, Wisconsin. Video evidence from that incident indicated that it was a different offender than the most recent incident. Riverside police continue to work with Edgerton police on that case.
The Riverside victims reported to police that between Feb. 14 and 19, they'd been defrauded of more than $2,000. On Feb. 19, police got a break when one of the victims called to report that an electric bass guitar that had been purchased using her information was delivered to her home. The victim refused delivery.
On Feb. 26, the victim, who had set up alert notification on all of her accounts, received notice at about 10 a.m. that packages in her name were to be delivered to a Naperville address.
Naperville police staked out the address and pulled over Arif as he drove away after taking packages from the front porch of the Bergamot Court home and throwing them into his vehicle.