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MEDICAL OFFICE ASSISTANTS AND BROWARD SCHOOL BOARD EMPLOYEE AMONG TWELVE CHARGED IN BANK FRAUD AND IDENTITY THEFT RING

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 5, 2011

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Michael K. Fithen, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, announced the unsealing of the March 15, 2011 indictment of twelve (12) defendants, charging them for their participation in a massive identity theft and bank fraud scheme.

Charged in the indictment were defendants Erica Hall, 27, of Lauderhill; Jasmin Rembert, 33, of Miramar; Sharelle Finnie, 22, of Ft. Lauderdale; Rufus Bethea, 30, of Hollywood; Bianca Cook, 21, of Lauderhill; Courtney Gissendanner, 28, of Hollywood; Brandi Johnson, 39, of Miramar; Demarcus Hough, 30, of Ft. Lauderdale; Darren Baldwin, 43, of Ft. Lauderdale; Aaron Hough, 30, of Hollywood; Minnie Powell, 49, of Pembroke Pines; and Eloise Sermons, 24, of West Park. They were all charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349, and conspiracy to commit access device fraud and identity theft, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371. Additionally, Erica Hall and Sharelle Finnie were charged with violations of HIPAA laws, in violation of Title 42, United States Code, Section 1320d-6. Darren Baldwin, Aaron Hough, Minnie Powell, and Eloise Sermons were also charged with substantive counts of access device fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029. All but three defendants were arrested and made their initial appearances in federal court this afternoon. Defendants Sermons, Cook, and Hough remain at large.

According to the indictment, defendants Erica Hall and Sharelle Finnie worked as office assistants at two separate medical offices in Coral Springs and Fort Lauderdale, respectively. In this capacity, both Hall and Finnie had access to private patient identification information, including names, dates of birth, social security numbers, and other medical information. Hall and Finnie allegedly stole patient identification information and sold it to defendants Rufus Bethea, Bianca Cook, and Demarcus Hough.

According to the indictment, defendant Jasmin Rembert was employed at the Broward County School Board in the teacher certification department, where she had access to sensitive personal identification information from teacher certification databases. Rembert allegedly stole personal identifying information, including names, dates of birth, and social security numbers, of numerous teachers in the databases and sold the information to Hough and Brandi Johnson.

According to the indictment, defendant Courtney Gissendanner was the alleged organizer and leader of the organization. He was the ultimate recipient of the stolen information and would use the stolen identification information to fraudulently add Hough, Baldwin, himself, and others as “authorized users” on the victims’ credit card and bank accounts. The defendants then used the stolen personal identification information to impersonate the victims and to deplete their bank accounts and incur credit card charges as high as $128,000 in one case.

If convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, the defendants each face a maximum statutory term of thirty (30) years’ imprisonment. If convicted of conspiracy to commit access device and identity theft, the defendants each face a maximum statutory term of five (5) years’ imprisonment. If convicted of the HIPAA violations, the defendants each face a maximum statutory term of ten (10) years’ imprisonment. Finally, if convicted of the substantive counts of access device fraud, the defendants each face a maximum statutory term of ten (10) years’ imprisonment.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the United States Secret Service and the Broward Sheriff’s Office. This case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Anton.

An Indictment is only an accusation, and defendant are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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