A man stole millions of dollars from residents in Beverly Hills after he was accused of taking mail and packages from their homes — allowing him to steal their identities, according to federal prosecutors.
He’s accused of raiding the residents’ mail for debit and credit cards, bank account information, phone numbers and other personal details he used to take over their bank accounts between November 2021 and October 2023, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in an Oct. 24 news release.
In the past two months, homeowners’ surveillance cameras, as well as city-owned cameras, have captured Oren David Sela driving through Beverly Hills and stealing mail, according to an affidavit filed with a criminal complaint on Oct. 6.
Sela, 35, of North Hills, stole nearly $2.6 million from four people, according to prosecutors who said they’re aware of at least 20 more victims.
A grand jury returned an eight-count indictment on Oct. 24, charging Sela with three counts of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft and more, the attorney’s office announced.
McClatchy News contacted a federal public defender representing Sela for comment on Oct. 24 and didn’t receive an immediate response.
Apartment full of stolen mail
In December 2022, Beverly Hills police officers said they believed Sela was driving a stolen car and arrested him, according to the affidavit.
Inside the vehicle, officers found six debit and credit cards that belonged to four people, prosecutors said.
Following his arrest, police searched Sela’s West Hollywood apartment, where he was living at the time, and found “extensive stolen mail” — including bank statements connected to 18 people, five California driver’s licenses, seven debit and credit cards, and expensive items, according to the affidavit.
One of the items was a watch worth nearly $17,000 that Sela bought with money he defrauded one of his victims of, the affidavit says.
The search of his apartment initially led police to learn of three victims Sela is accused of stealing $2.4 million from, according to the affidavit.
At the time, he had about 33 pieces of mail he was accused of stealing, prosecutors said.
By Oct. 10, when federal authorities arrested him, he was found with at least 118 pieces of stolen mail, according to prosecutors.
When Sela would gain access to someone’s bank account with their personal information he found from their stolen mail, he would open new bank accounts in their names, prosecutors said.
Then, he’d empty their account and transfer the money to the new accounts, according to prosecutors.
‘SIM swapping’ used as a way to access accounts
In some cases, Sela needed to bypass two-factor authentication to get into a victim’s bank account, prosecutors said.
To do so, he’d carry out “‘SIM swapping’ of the victim’s telephone number to a SIM card that he would control,” according to prosecutors.
This results in a cellphone carrier assigning a person’s cellphone number from their SIM card to a different SIM card “without the legitimate subscriber’s authorization,” prosecutors said.
Then, “the fraudster” can “take control of the victim’s various accounts through two-step authentication text messages sent to a victim’s cell phone,” prosecutors added.
If Sela is convicted of all eight counts against him, he could be sentenced up to 97 years in prison, according to the release.
North Hills is about 15 miles northwest of Beverly Hills.