California power broker Darius Anderson made a splashy, public attempt to buy the Sacramento Kings last year and wound up a victim of identity theft.
In a bizarre case that may have been sparked by Anderson's offer for the Kings, a Sacramento man was charged this week with stealing the prominent lobbyist's identity, hacking into his bank accounts and moving massive amounts of his money around.
At one point, court records show, the man allegedly transferred $150,000 from one Anderson bank account to another, to prove to himself that he had gained access. Ultimately, the defendant, 28-year-old Clinton Beau Babcock, was charged with stealing around $1,300 from Anderson's accounts. He has yet to enter a plea.
Anderson said Friday it took eight months to sort everything out.
"It was a bloody nightmare," he said.
The case shows how easy it is to steal someone's identity. Anderson said he thinks the alleged scheme began with the theft of a credit card offer mailed to his lobbying firm's office on K Street in downtown Sacramento.
"You need that one piece of information and you can parlay it," said Ken Lin of Credit Karma, a San Francisco credit-score company.
A highly successful lobbyist, developer and Democratic fundraiser, Anderson has been a major player at the Capitol for years. But he believes it was his stab at wresting control of the Kings that grabbed a thief's attention.
In April 2011, Anderson and Southern California billionaire supermarket tycoon Ron Burkle went public with their bid to buy the Kings from the Maloofs, who were threatening to move the team to Anaheim. Anderson unveiled the offer in New York, where he accompanied Mayor Kevin Johnson to the annual meeting of NBA owners.
The Maloofs quickly and bluntly rejected the offer, but Burkle and Anderson made headlines for days.
Court records show the thefts began about a month later.
The victim is identified in court papers only as "Darius A.," but Anderson said it was him.
Federal prosecutor Michelle Rodriguez said the victim's prominence appears to have played a role in the alleged crime.
Babcock "knew it was a person, an entrepreneur, well-established in the Sacramento area, a person of some assets with the means to buy a sports team," said Rodriguez, an assistant U.S. attorney.
Lin said it's often easier for identity thieves to go after well-known people.
"When you're a more prominent person, you're going to be more in the media," the credit expert said. "You're going to have more public records.
"You're going to have more of your personal information on the Internet," he said. "You're going to be susceptible."
Babcock has been under investigation for more than a year, and admitted to a postal inspector last July that he had stolen Anderson's identity, according to court records.
Among other things, he said he used Anderson's credit-card reward points to buy gift cards for himself, Postal Inspector Roxanne LeMaire said in a court affidavit.
Babcock was arrested earlier this month and has been held without bail. He was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday for aggravated identity theft, bank fraud and other charges.
He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday in U.S. District Court. His lawyer couldn't be reached for comment.
According to court records, Babcock gained access to Anderson's Wells Fargo accounts in May 2011. He also changed the mailing address on Anderson's credit card to his own home.
In addition, Babcock allegedly transferred $150,000 between two Anderson accounts, apparently to verify that he had successfully seized his identity, LeMaire wrote in her affidavit.
The postal inspector said it's typical for bank-fraud suspects to "transfer money between multiple accounts of a victim to confirm their unauthorized control and access."
That alleged transfer may have led to Babcock's undoing. Anderson said one of the accounts is used by his wife's antiques business, which seldom makes huge transfers.
"The flag went up," Anderson said. "The guy figured out the wrong account to go with."
Still, the scheme didn't end there. A few days later, according to court records, Babcock managed to get a new credit card in Anderson's name mailed to his home. And within a week, "six fraudulent charges" totaling $1,300 showed up on Anderson's account, the grand jury charged.
Court records say Babcock spent the bulk of the money on a Hewlett-Packard notebook computer.