Inmate ‘pulls off £10m heist inside prison’ and uses cash to buy lavish mansion

An ex-gang member has been accused of stealing $11m (£9.8m) while serving a 14-year sentence for armed robbery in a maximum security prison.

Arthur Lee Cofield Jr allegedly used contraband phones to steal the identity of media mogul Sidney Kimmel, whose entertainment company is behind films such as Crazy Rich Asians and Moneyball, and who is worth an estimated $1.5bn (£1.3bn).

The prisoner reportedly accessed Kimmel's funds and shifted an eight-figure lump sum out of his account, using the cash to purchase a $4.4m (£3.9m) mansion in Atlanta.

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It is thought to have been one of the largest heists ever successfully pulled off from inside a prison.

Speaking of the case, attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak said back in December 2020: "Some prisoners aren’t interested in rehabilitation or paying their debt to society.

"The allure of millions of dollars in gold, coupled with contraband prison cellphones, allegedly was enough for Cofield to commit a brazen million-dollar fraud scheme from the confines of his prison cell."

Cofield was allegedly able to get his hands on several means of identification for Kimmel, enabling him to gain access to one of the billionaire's online accounts in June 2020.

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He then reportedly impersonated the billionaire over the phone and opened a checking account in his name, using Kimmel's driving licence and a utility bill – along with the help of a co-conspirator outside of the prison – to complete the verification process.

Shortly afterwards he bought 6,106 American Gold Eagle one-ounce coins for an eyewatering $11m (£9.8m) and even hired a private security team to transport the coins on a private plane to Atlanta on June 13, 2020, a court heard.

The coins were allegedly intended for Cofield's co-defendants, Eldridge Maurice Bennett, 65, and his daughter Eliayah Bennett, 27, who reportedly used the money to purchase a six-bedroom mansion in Atlanta, paid in full by September 1, 2020.

All three have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and money laundering.

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Cofield is also facing attempted murder charges after he was accused of issuing an order from prison for gang members to shoot and kill a romantic rival of his, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported.

He was consequently moved from state prison to federal custody in 2021 after his armed robbery sentence came to an end.

An attorney representing Cofield in both the bank fraud and attempted murder cases declined to comment to the AJC.

Both cases are ongoing.

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