Son’s call to police leads to dad’s arrest on felony ID theft charges Illinois driver’s licenses and 12 passports from Pakistan, Jamaica and the U.S., under various names, also were found in the home
(Chicago Tribune) investigation of a Morton Grove man charged with 22 counts of felony identity theft started when his son reported that his father had threatened to shoot him, authorities said Tuesday.
Officers were looking for weapons last week when they searched the home of Mohammad Afzal Sodagar in the 8600 block of Frontage Drive.
What they found instead were hundreds of credit cards, 11 Illinois identification cards with Sodagar’s photos—but bearing other names—on them, at least 36 Social Security cards, gold coins and bars and more than $60,000 in cash, said a spokesman for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.
Bail for Sodagar, 51, was set at $3 million during a hearing Monday in the Skokie branch of Circuit Court. He was charged Saturday.
In his dealings with Chicago’s Muslim community, Sodagar, whom family members say uses his middle name, has portrayed himself as the chief executive of a television production company. But in arguing for the high bail, prosecutors said he apparently has no job.
“This man has been operating his own criminal enterprise for probably 30 years,” said Morton Grove Police Cmdr. Brian Bolger.
“We have located 22 victims,” Bolger said, including three from Michigan, Nevada and Indiana. But he said police believe there may be more victims.
The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service have been notified of Sodagar’s arrest, Bolger said.
FBI Chicago office spokesman Ross Rice said he would not discuss Sodagar’s arrest, but said identity theft has been a problem in the Chicago area and that a multi-agency task force to address the program was created in 2004.
Identity theft can run the gamut from people stealing bank statements from others’ trash and applying for credit cards online to stealing credit card solicitations from mailboxes, Rice said.
Authorities said they were still investigating how Sodagar obtained the credit cards and identification documents and how they were used. But they said Illinois driver’s licenses and 12 passports from Pakistan, Jamaica and the U.S., under various names, also were found in the home.
A defense lawyer said Sodagar intends to plead not guilty and that he will ask for a reduction in bail.
“It’s high for this type of charges,” said Bruce Brandwein, the attorney. “This is a nonviolent crime.”
The latest investigation started after Sodagar’s son called police after arguing with his father on Nov. 28, said Andy Conklin, a state’s attorney’s office spokesman.
In an interview Tuesday in the family’s home, Saarum Sodagar, 22, said his father told him, “I swear on your mom, I’ll shoot you.”
The son said he called police to report the threat, adding that he was aware his father had credit cards that were not in his name and was hoping police would find them.
“I wanted [police] to catch him red-handed,” Saarum Sodagar said
Afzal Sodagar’s wife consented to a police search of the home for guns.
Officers found no weapons, authorities said. But in Sodagar’s bedroom, officers noticed several thick envelopes stuffed with $100 bills, as well as hundreds of credit cards in an open briefcase, Conklin said.
The officers left but returned to the house about 6 p.m. Thursday with a warrant and confiscated “a room full of evidence,” Bolger said.
Sodagar did not work and had been abusive to his family in the past, his son said.
Born in Pakistan, Afzal Sodagar is a naturalized U.S. citizen, his family and authorities said.
In press releases and news reports over the last two years, he has portrayed himself as CEO of a company called Eye-TV and as a contact for at least two prominent Chicago Muslim groups.
Officials with the Muslim Community Center, which runs a Chicago mosque as well as a school and mosque in Morton Grove, said Sodagar has volunteered with the group, but they said he has held no elected positions with the organization and has had no corporate responsibilities.
“He’s been involved in a volunteer capacity for about the past year and a half,” said Yasir Aleemuddin, a director of the Muslim Community Center.
Sodagar has been relieved of his volunteer duties since his arrest, according to the group.
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