Inmate impersonates California billionaire, pulls $11m heist while in max security holding

In what appears to be the biggest heist from a US prison, a Georgia inmate while in a maximum security holding cell impersonated a California billionaire to steal $11 million.

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The Georgia Department of Corrections’ Special Management Unit is where Arthur Lee Cofield Jr., a 31-year-old gang member serving a 14-year sentence for armed robbery, is accused of using unregistered cell phones to pose as California billionaire Sidney Kimmel and open a false bank account in his name.

Cofield planned to acquire 6,106 American Eagle one-ounce gold coins. In order to buy the coins, he made arrangements for $11 million to be sent from Kimmel’s Charles Schwab account to a firm in Idaho.

According to authorities, after Cofield was done moving the funds, he reportedly coordinated the use of a private plane to fly the coins to Atlanta, where some of the money was used to buy a house in Buckhead worth $4.4 million.

The bank has since, in full, reimbursed Kimmel, the chairman and CEO of Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, the Los Angeles-based firm.

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However, the incident sheds light on the corrections department’s shortcomings in stopping illegal activity even from within its own maximum-security facility intended to house Georgia’s most hardened criminals.

According to reports, Cofield was transfered to the Special Management Unit after it was alleged that he gave an order to gang members in Atlanta to shoot one of his romantic rivals while he was incarcerated in a Georgia state prison.

The Justice Department’s Findings

The Justice Department originally revealed in December 2020 that Cofield and two co-conspirators, Eldridge Bennett and his daughter Eliayah Bennett, had been indicted for stealing $11 million, and ever since then, only limited information about the conspiracy case has been made public. On charges of conspiring to commit bank fraud and money laundering, all three have entered a not guilty plea.

In a piece released on Friday by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that is, after studying court records and other materials, Kimmel was the first victim to be named publicly, which means there may be other victims.

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Federal prosecutors stated at a prior court hearing that there was evidence suggesting Cofield took $2.25 million from Nicole Wertheim, the wife of Florida billionaire Herbert Wertheim. However, as of yet, no charges have been brought forward in relation to that case.

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