The sentence caps a criminal prosecution that began in the summer of 2020 when a contraband cellphone seized from Cofield inside the Georgia Department of Corrections’ Special Management Unit — the state’s super max facility — yielded data that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and other federal investigators needed to uncover the $11 million heist.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution later revealed that the money was drained from Kimmel’s account in what is believed to be the biggest theft ever pulled off from inside a state prison. Kimmel, 95, is the founder of the apparel company Jones New York. He sold the company for $2.2 billion in 2014 and moved into financing and producing movies.
Cofield used the stolen funds to purchase gold coins, had the coins transported from Idaho to Atlanta on a private plane and used part of the haul to buy a $4.4 million mansion in Buckhead.
Cofield also was named as the sole defendant in a federal criminal case in Alabama last year contending that he orchestrated similar thefts from unspecified online accounts between January 2018 and February 2019. The stolen money was turned into gold in those instances as well, the government alleged.
Cofield, who has been in federal custody since his GDC sentence for armed robbery ended in October 2021, appeared at Friday’s hearing in an orange jumpsuit. He declined to make a statement in front of Jones.
He was represented at the hearing by Steve Sadow and Drew Findling, two of the state’s top criminal defense attorneys. Sadow is also Donald Trump’s attorney in the Fulton County election interference prosecution. Findling previously was part of Trump’s Georgia legal team.
Cofield was moved to the Special Management Unit from Georgia State Prison in 2018 after he was charged by Fulton County prosecutors with ordering a shooting that left the victim, a 36-year-old Atlanta man, paralyzed from the waist down.
Located on the grounds of the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, the Special Management Unit houses the state’s most problematic prisoners in single-man cells. Yet even under those circumstances, Cofield was able to repeatedly acquire cell phones and use them to take the elaborate steps necessary to steal and move the money.
Posing as Kimmel, he phoned Charles Schwab and then gained access to his account by coming up with the billionaire’s driver’s license photo and a copy of his Los Angeles water bill. Next, Cofield used the money to purchase 6,106 American Eagle gold coins from an Idaho company, arranged for a private plane to fly the coins to Atlanta and used a portion of the money to buy the Buckhead house, then under construction.
Cofield had the help of two accomplices on the outside. Both of them have pleaded guilty.
When Cofield appeared before Jones in April to plead guilty, he briefly gave sketchy accounts of his schemes, adding the revelation that he’d initially sought to take $20 million from Kimmel’s Schwab account.
“They didn’t want to pull the first $20 million,” he said in court then. “So I said, `Hey, let me just do $11 million.’”
Cofield entered the GDC in 2008 at age 16 after he used a handgun to steal $2,600 from a Douglasville bank. He pleaded guilty to armed robbery and received a 14-year sentence.
The bank robbery was a comedy or errors — doomed from the start when a dye pack embedded with the money exploded in the bank parking lot. But inside the prison system, Cofield became a more proficient criminal, a scammer who siphoned funds from unwitting victims on the outside through stolen checks and other means.
Recent reporting by the AJC shows that Cofield was in fact working on schemes to scam the public at least six years before he was charged. And as his wealth and stature grew, he became known as the leader of a prison crew known as YAP, short for Young and Paid, that staged parties at clubs in Atlanta, promoted itself on social media and at one time was even incorporated with the Georgia Secretary of State.
Fulton County prosecutors contend that the YAP culture also led to the 2018 shooting, which occurred outside a southwest Atlanta recording studio. Prosecutors allege that Cofield, who called himself YAP Lavish, ordered the shooting and that it was carried out by two formerly incarcerated men who were part of his YAP crew.
The motive, according to prosecutors, was jealousy: Cofield believed that the victim was involved with a young Atlanta woman with whom Cofield had developed a phone relationship.
Cofield has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and other charges stemming from the shooting. All others charged in the case, including the shooter, have pleaded guilty to their roles and received lengthy prison sentences.