2007_08_forbes400.jpgMaybe there is good reason to try to stay off Forbes' list of 400 wealthiest people. The Manhattan DA's office charged a 24-year-old Russian national with an elaborate identity ring that targeted rich Americans.

Igor Klopov recruited people in the U.S., via sites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com, to help him and he managed to steal $1.5 million from four people. But Klopov was nabbed during an attempt to take $10.7 million from Anthony Pritzker, of the Chicago Pritzkers, and Charles Wyly Jr., whose brother is a big GOP donor. From the AP:

An indictment alleges that Klopov picked his victims from the Forbes 400 list, then tapped into online databases to collect information "about the value of property, size of outstanding mortgages and existing lines of credit," prosecutor James Kindler said at a news conference.

Klopov then hired his co-conspirators to help forge documents and raid bank accounts, an operation financed with stolen credit cards, prosecutors said.

Klopov's American accomplices would get information from targets living in Texas, Oregon and California, where property deed information is available online, and Klopov and his team would assume those identities. One accomplice tried to withdraw money posing as Pritzker, but was denied by JP Morgan Chase.

Klopov, posing as Wyly, had Chase send a new checkbook to a different address in Texas, but the bank became suspicious when "Wyly" wrote a $7 million check to buy gold bars from a Westchester dealer. Chase alerted Wyly who said he had not written a check for that amount in gold.

Undercover investigators then assumed the identity of that accomplice and sent Klopov a photo of an undercover with gold bars, to lure Klopov to the U.S. Klopov was arrested in Brooklyn this past May, near the Brooklyn Heights promenade. Klopov's lawyer says that his client was "entrapped" (because th Secret Service had chartered the plane that flew him from the Dominican Republic to the U.S.) and wishes to cooperate with the prosecutors. The Times reports that the Manahttan DA's office denies the entrapment charges, pointing out that there are photos of Klopov happily posing in front of the World Financial Center.