updated 8/16/2007 6:19:19 PM ET 2007-08-16T22:19:19

Texas billionaire Charles J. Wyly Jr. and other wealthy victims were targets of an identity theft ring that sought to steal more than $12 million by mining the Internet for personal information about their finances, authorities said Thursday.

Prosecutors in Manhattan said Igor Klopov, 24, orchestrated the scheme from his home in Russia. An indictment accuses him of picking names from the Forbes 400 list and using his home computer to retrieve their property records and mortgage information from online databases.

Klopov, who was snared in a sting operation in May, and four other defendants arrested Thursday in Michigan, Florida, Texas and Kentucky were charged with grand larceny, money laundering and other charges. If convicted, they face up to 25 years in prison.

Prosecutors allege Klopov, while posing as Wyly, was able to obtain a new checkbook for his bank account. They say he then wrote a $7 million check made out to a gold dealer in Westchester County, N.Y., before the fraud was discovered.

Wyly, 73, and his brother, Sam, headed the world’s largest arts and crafts chain, Michaels Stores Inc., before it was sold last year for $6 billion.

An attorney for Wyly did not immediately respond to a phone message.

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