Birmingham Woman Pleads Guilty To Multi-State Identity Theft Conspiracy
BIRMINGHAM – A Birmingham woman pleaded guilty today to participating in a multi-state identity-theft and counterfeit-check scheme that included recruiting homeless people to cash the fraudulent checks, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Keith Morris, FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard D. Schwein Jr., and U.S. Secret Service Acting Special Agent in Charge Jeff Anderson.
DAPHNE COLLETTE TATE, 42, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler to conspiring with five other people to defraud more than two dozen banks in Alabama, Georgia and Florida. She also pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft, possessing a business check stolen from the U.S. mail, and possessing a counterfeit check.
Tate was arrested and indicted individually in February. A federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment in March, charging Tate and five other defendants in the multi-state identity-theft conspiracy. Charged along with Tate are her cousin KEITH LAMAR REESE, 46, also of Birmingham, and four Atlanta-area residents, COLUNDRIA SEATS, 36, DEMARIO S. MORMON, 27, CLIFFTON A. MORMON, 31, and BRETT E. FALCONER, 27. The superseding indictment was unsealed April 23.
"In this age of multi-state fraud schemes, it is more important than ever for federal and state law enforcement agencies to coordinate their efforts to best protect the public," Vance said. "My office is privileged to be part of such collaborative efforts that result in prosecuting cases where organized criminal rings operate across city, county, and state lines," she said. "We will continue this mission."
According to the March indictment, Tate and other conspirators conducted their scheme in Alabama, Georgia and Florida between September 2011 and February 2013 as follows:
They obtained account and routing information for various businesses' legitimate checking accounts in at least 25 banks through various means, including stealing checks from the mail and engaging people who had access to account information. Falconer was employed by Regions Bank and accessed the bank's records for the conspiracy during her employment. Falconer provided co-conspirators with information from Regions' accounts and from checks presented at Regions Bank. Other conspirators, including Demario and Cliffton, used that genuine account and routing information to manufacture counterfeit business checks.
Tate, Seats, and Reese would locate people, often the homeless, who had government-issued identification cards and would join the conspiracy as check-cashers. Tate, Seats, Reese and other co-conspirators would transport the check-cashers to locations where they would cash or attempt to cash the counterfeit checks. Members of the conspiracy would divide the proceeds of the successfully cashed checks among themselves.
Each defendant faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Each also faces a potential two-year prison term and $250,000 fine for each count of aggravated identity theft. In addition, a conviction for possessing a counterfeit check carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for Tate, who also faces a possible five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of possessing stolen mail.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Pelham, Trussville and Vestavia Hills police departments, with assistance from Regions Bank corporate investigators. Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa K. Atwood is prosecuting the case.
While Tate has pleaded guilty to her role in the conspiracy, the remaining defendants are only charged by indictment. The public is reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation. They are presumed innocent and it will be the government's obligation to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.