The Convict Who Pulled an Inside Job

In April of 2023, a man in Georgia named Arthur Cofield pled guilty to charges of bank fraud and identity theft. The victim, Sidney Kimmel, was 95-year-old a billionaire film producer involved in the making of Moneyball, Crazy Rich Asians, 9½ Weeks, and many other films you may have seen. 

But Cofield isn’t going to prison for this crime — not because he’s not going to be incarcerated, but because he’s already there when he committed the crime. 

In the summer of 2020, Cofield was an inmate at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in Butts County, Georgia. The prison is a maximum security facility that houses violent criminals including the state’s death row inmates; at the time, Cofield was serving a 14-year sentence for armed robbery. And he wasn’t looking to leave his criminal past behind once his time was up. Rather, Cofield continued his efforts as a thief, even while behind bars. And it turns out, he was very good at it.

Cofield had a knack for obtaining cell phones, even while incarcerated. As the Washington Post reported, “prison officials say Cofield has been found with contraband at least 12 times, according to incident reports. In 2016, guards said he told them he didn’t care about the phone they had found on him since he ‘had hundreds of phones,’ according to the incident report.” and if he was punished for having the devices, it didn’t deter him from obtaining new ones. And Cofield wasn’t just using the phones to call his friends and family from the outside. He was using them to commit larger crimes — specifically, at Kimmel’s expense.

As the New York Times reported, Cofield, working with a co-conspirator who ‘texted him a picture of Mr. Kimmel’s driver’s license and a utility bill,” was able to convince a bank to open a checking account for him in Kimmel’s name, funded by Kimmel’s money. But getting the money out of the bank wasn’t trivial — so Cofield had to be creative. And being behind bars didn’t deter him from doing so. According to a December 2020 press release from the United States Department of Justice, Cofield placed a call pretending to be Kimmel, to a precious metals dealer in Idaho and “agreed to purchase 6,106 American Gold Eagle one-ounce coins for the price of $10,998,859.92.” With the help of one of his not-in-prison accomplices, Cofield convinced the bank to send the funds to the Idaho company, and then, per the DOJ, “hired a private security company to transport the purchased gold coins from Boise, Idaho, to Atlanta, Georgia, by chartered private plane.” Another co-conspirator met the plane, flashed some false credentials, and took possession of the coins. The co-conspirator then used the coins to buy a $4.4 million mansion in Atlanta, with plenty of cash left over.

While the illicit phones allowed him to pull off the crime, it was also what ultimately got Cofield caught. Per the above-linked Washington Post piece, “authorities were tipped off to the alleged scheme on June 10, 2020, when prison staff members seized two phones from Cofield’s cell: one on top of his desk and another underneath Cofield’s right armpit, according to an incident report. The prison’s forensic unit then began reviewing call logs and text messages — ultimately uncovering his plot.” For the Georgia Department of Corrections, though, discovering the crime was hardly enough to deflect the embarrassment of having it occur under their noses for months — the heist, per multiple reports, is one of the largest ever conducted by a criminal who was incarcerated at the time of the crime.

Bonus fact: On July 2, 1976, the United States Supreme Court decided five cases, all dealing with capital punishment; collectively, the decisions ended a de facto moratorium on executions. One of those cases was Gregg v. Georgia, a case involving Troy Leon Gregg, who was convicted of two counts of murder. From that point on, Gregg was to wait on Georgia’s death row until his execution was scheduled, but on July 29, 1980, he managed to break out of prison. The plan didn’t work out well for him, though; Gregg was murdered that same night, likely in a bar brawl.

From the Archives: A Noid, Annoyed: Another story of crime in Georgia.