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News - All - 12 Oct 2018

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Miscellaneous: 12 Oct 2018
Woman who aced business program led ‘sophisticated’ ID theft ring

KITCHENER — A Waterloo woman who aced a business program in college used her knowledge to mastermind a "sophisticated" identity theft ring that victimized more than 1,000 people.

Andrijana Ninkovic scored a 96 per cent average in a business administration program but got addicted to hard drugs and figured her only options were prostitution or crime, defence lawyer Jeffrey Garland said in court on Thursday.

"She recognizes that that's an error in thinking — she had other options," he said.

Ninkovic, 29, was sentenced in June to three years in prison on drug and ID theft charges. She got another two years on Thursday on additional ID theft and fraud charges.

As many as 1,300 people were victimized.

Ninkovic kept detailed notes on how to steal identities and rip off people. Justice Michael Epstein called it a "sophisticated operation."

"There was a comprehensive to-do list kept by the accused indicating steps that should be taken to further victimize people whose identities had been stolen," the judge said.

"These people had their lives literally turned upside down. They suffered considerable stress, financial loss. Some, not an insignificant number, were required to involve themselves in counselling as a result of emotional and psychological issues."

Ninkovic's crimes caused depression among some victims, Garland said.

"It impacted the victims' relationships with others, their trust in others in general," he said. "The victims speak of never being the same again."

At a sentencing hearing on the first set of charges in June, victim Natasha Mahlman said the theft of her driver's licence, citizenship card, health card, credit cards and debit cards from her car turned into "utter hell." Her bank accounts were drained.

"We had no money for five days," she said. "Because of this, we had mortgage, property tax, four different insurance and RESP payments and bills all bounce."

Garland asked for two more years in prison on the latest charges, noting his client pleaded guilty, is relatively young and could be rehabilitated.

"There's a hope that she'll be able to turn her intelligence toward good works upon the completion of her sentence," he said.

Crown prosecutor Brendan Thomas said deterrence and denunciation should be key factors in the sentence. He asked for three years.

"This is criminal activity of a nature that is becoming much more prevalent in this jurisdiction and it must be clear to the public that it will not be tolerated," he said.

"This was an organized enterprise — it was a business. This was not an addict stealing identity information here and there to support her addiction. It was vast in scope. It was clear she was the organizing mind behind the operation."

Ninkovic, handcuffed in the prisoner's box, cried as she told the judge she didn't mean to ruin so many lives.

"I just want to apologize to the people I hurt."

Ninkovic said her crimes were motivated by her drug addiction, but the judge said there was "a significant element of greed."

A presentence report says she's trying to quit drugs.

"She's bright, she's educated, she seems to have the intellectual wherewithal to make something of herself after her release from custody," the judge said.

"Good luck to you," he told Ninkovic before she was led off to prison., Twitter: @GPaulRecord , Twitter: @GPaulRecord

Gordon Paul Waterloo Region Record/AA

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