Jury Finds Georgia Men Guilty Of Orchestrating Bank Fraud Scheme
LAKE CHARLES, La. – United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that a federal jury found Anthown Latarius Swan, 28, Orlando Brian Washington, 29, and Lavar Elliot Kittelberger, 33, all of Atlanta, Ga., guilty of operating a counterfeit check scheme that bilked thousands of dollars from business bank accounts in the south-central and southwest Louisiana areas. United States District Judge Patricia Minaldi presided over the trial.
The defendants’ trial started Monday and ended today with the jury returning the guilty verdict after deliberating for two and a half hours. According to evidence and testimony presented at the trial, the defendants stayed at Lafayette, La., hotels and would steal from area businesses’ mailboxes looking for commercial checks sent to those businesses and drawn on local banks. They used account information on the original checks to print out counterfeit checks and recruited individuals off the street and from homeless shelters who had valid identification to cash the fake checks. Counterfeit checks were cashed at banks in Lafayette, Broussard, Crowley, Lake Charles, and Sulphur. After a search of the group’s hotel room on November 27, 2012, authorities found the 43 original stolen checks worth $155,223 in addition to a computer, printer and blank check paper.
All of the defendants were convicted on the conspiracy to defraud a financial institution and stolen mail counts. Swan and Washington were also convicted of eight counts of fictitious obligations, and Kittleberger was convicted of five counts of fictitious obligations.
The defendants face up to 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine, and five years of supervised release. A sentencing date of February 13, 2014 was set.
The fourth co-defendant of the group, Kwame Raphael Cunningham, 22, of Augusta, Ga., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and identity theft charges August 22, 2013. His sentencing date is December 5, 2013.
The U.S. Secret Service and the Lafayette Police Department, with assistance from the Sulphur Police Department, the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Louisiana State Police, conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett L. Grayson and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert C. Abendroth prosecuted the case.