JURY FINDS FLORIDA RESIDENTS GUILTY OF OPERATING
MULTI-STATE IDENTITY THEFT AND BANK FRAUD SCHEME
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that a federal jury in Hartford has found MICHAEL JOHNSON, 32, of Miami Gardens, Fla, and JERMAINE JONES, 31, of West Palm Beach, Fla., guilty of bank fraud, conspiracy and identity theft offenses stemming from an extensive fraud scheme. The trial began on November 2 and the jury returned its verdict today after deliberating for approximately four hours.
According to the evidence presented during the trial, from August 2007 to May 2010, JOHNSON and JONES schemed to defraud federally insured banks and credit unions in at least 10 states across the country, including Connecticut. As part of the scheme, JOHNSON and JONES committed thefts of individuals’ identifications, checks, debit cards, and credit cards from multiple victims, usually through the commission of car burglaries. The defendants targeted automobiles in parking lots at gymnasiums, parks, athletic fields, and other places where they believed women would leave purses unattended inside vehicles.
JOHNSON, JONES and others recruited women, who typically had substance abuse problems, to cash the checks at banks. A third co-conspirator, Sheikera Williams of Aventura, Fl., filled out and provided the stolen checks, along with stolen identification and bank cards, to the “cashers.” Williams also provided cashers with wigs, hats, sunglasses, and other items to disguise their appearances and to prevent bank tellers from recognizing that the casher was not the legitimate account holder. The casher was provided with a rented car and was instructed to approach the bank via the farthest drive-through teller window, in order to prevent the bank teller from effectively comparing a photo identification with the casher.
The cashers negotiated checks at the victim banks and credit unions where theft victims had an account. Typically, Williams would provide a casher with one or more checks that she had made out to the individual on the stolen identification card. The check would be drawn on an account of a different victim and drawn from a bank other than the one the casher approached. If a transaction was approved, the casher would give the money to the defendants and receive a share of the funds.
Through this scheme, numerous identities were stolen, and banks suffered losses of several hundred thousand dollars.
Today, the jury found JOHNSON and JONES guilty of seven counts of bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. These charges carry a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years and a fine of up to $1 million, on each count. The jury also found JOHNSON and JONES guilty of seven counts of aggravated identity theft. This charge carries a mandatory consecutive term of imprisonment of at least two years.
JOHNSON and JONES have been detained since June 2010.
On October 3, 2011, Sheikera Williams pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. She also awaits sentencing.
This matter has been investigated by the United States Secret Service, ICE Homeland Security Investigations and the West Hartford Police Department. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David E. Novick and Paul H. McConnell.
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