Financial Crime: Man sentenced to 3½ years for stealing IDs of L.A. murder-suicide victims and looting their estate
It was a tragedy with no end.
A California man was sentenced to 3½ years in prison for stealing the identities of the victims of a tragic Los Angeles murder-suicide in 2019 and plundering their life savings.
Kristopher Brent Cobb, 41, pleaded guilty last August to hacking into the bank accounts of Los Angeles deputy city attorney, Eric Lertzman, just two days after Lertzman had fatally shot his wife and 19-year-old son in their home before turning the gun on himself. Lertzman had also fired at his daughter, but she managed to escape.
Cobb, of Marina Del Ray, admitted he had learned of the Sept. 11, 2019, tragedy through news reports which gave him the idea to steal Lertzman’s and his wife’s identities, prosecutors said.
Using fraudulent email addresses, federal prosecutors say, Cobb and others managed to gain control of the couple’s cellphone accounts with which they then accessed their bank and credit-card accounts. Cobb then used them to make nearly $150,000 in purchases and transfers.
Much of the money was used to purchase gold that Cobb had shipped to himself in Los Angeles.
Prosecutors said the scam also victimized the Lertzmans’ surviving daughter a second time, as she was left having to deal with her family’s plundered estate shortly after narrowly surviving the tragic incident that left her parents and brother dead. This caused her “immense grief.”
“[The daughter] was in a fragile emotional state after her near-death experience and the horrific deaths of her family members, and as a result, [she] did not closely monitor [her parent’s] financial accounts after their deaths,” prosecutors explained in court filings. “As a young woman in her 20s, [she] had to navigate an extremely traumatizing and well-publicized crisis without the help of any immediate family members.”
In addition to the prison sentence, Cobb was also ordered to pay restitution of $137,000.
A message left by MarketWatch with Cobb’s attorney wasn’t immediately returned. In court papers, Cobb’s lawyer, Adam Olin, said his client was remorseful, arguing that the theft occurred at a very low period in Cobb’s life, during which he was battling with drug addiction and homelessness.
Olin argued that Cobb didn’t act alone but was the only one charged in the case. He also argued that his client only ended up with a small portion of the money that was stolen but is faced with paying it back in its entirety.
Cobb has had previous arrests and convictions for identity theft.