Former FAMU Student Sentenced to Prison for Identity Theft
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA– Christopher J. Wright, 23, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, was sentenced today to two years in federal prison for aggravated identity theft and access device fraud arising from a scheme to steal financial aid monies from students at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.
While students at FAMU in 2010, Wright and his co-defendants, Carliss Pereira, 22, of Tallahassee, and Carl Coutard, 22, of Miami Shores, Florida, discovered a means of accessing the financial aid accounts of other students in FAMU’s iRattler computer system. The defendants obtained the usernames, passwords, and other personal identifying information of their fellow students by taking paperwork discarded in the trash bins near the FAMU computer help desk, by gathering information from public sources on the internet, and by tricking FAMU employees and the students themselves into providing this information. The defendants used the information to log on to the financial aid accounts of students who were scheduled to receive financial aid refunds. The defendants then changed the bank account and routing numbers in the victims’ financial aid accounts to divert the victims’ financial aid refunds to pre-paid debit cards held by the defendants. In all but a few cases, FAMU was able to reverse the fraudulent transfers.
Pereira and Coutard pled guilty to access device fraud and aggravated identity theft charges earlier this year. Coutard was sentenced to six months of home detention and six months of community confinement, and was ordered to perform 80 hours of community service, as conditions of a three-year term of supervised release. Pereira was sentenced to a three-year term of supervised release with conditions that he serve four months of home detention and two months of community confinement. Pereira was also ordered to perform 80 hours of community service and to pay $3,983 in restitution to FAMU.
In announcing the sentence imposed by the court, United States Attorney Pamela C. Marsh said, “Today’s sentence sends a clear message that engaging in this type of criminal conduct will have serious consequences, including the real possibility of a felony conviction and a prison term. The defendants in this case quite literally breached the security of their university, in an effort to victimize their fellow students.” Ms. Marsh expressed her deep gratitude to the FBI, the FAMU Police Department, the United States Department of Education – Office of Inspector General, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the United States Secret Service, whose excellent investigative work resulted in these prosecutions. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Rhew-Miller prosecuted the case.