News and Press Releases

LAST THREE OF TWELVE DEFENDANTS SENTENCED IN MASSIVE BANK FRAUD AND IDENTITY THEFT RING

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 30, 2011

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Vance Luce, Acting Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service, announced today the convictions and sentencings of twelve (12) defendants stemming from a March 15, 2011 indictment, charging the defendants for their participation in a massive identity theft and bank fraud scheme. Convicted and sentenced in this case are 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.

More specifically, the defendants were all convicted and have been sentenced on charges of 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 each charged and convicted of 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 charged and convicted of access device fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1029.

Today, U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro sentenced the last remaining defendants in the case. Judge Ungaro sentenced defendant Jasmin Rembert to 63 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay $408,082.18 in restitution; Courtney Gissendanner was sentenced to 91 months in prison, to be followed by 5 years of supervised release, and $154,852.39 in restitution; and Brandi Johnson was sentenced to 120 months in prison, to be followed by 5 years of supervised release, and $408,082.18 in restitution.

Nine other defendants were sentenced previously as follows:

•Erica Hall: 14 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release, and the payment of $37,411.69 in restitution;
•Sharelle Finnie: 366 days in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and the payment of $30,231.14 in restitution;
•Rufus Bethea: 50 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, and the payment of $33,138.59 in restitution;
•Bianca Cook: 5 years of supervised release with 6 months of home detention with electronic monitoring;
•Demarcus Hough: 77 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, and the payment of $64,385.93 in restitution; •Darren Baldwin: 18 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and the payment of $29,853.78 in restitution;
•Aaron Hough: 41 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and the payment of $22,103.29 in restitution;
•Minnie Powell: 5 years of supervised release and the payment of $137,364.45 in restitution; and
•Eloise Sermons: 33 months in prison, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, and the payment of $128,018.92 in restitution.

According to the filed documents and statements made in court, 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 stole patient identification information and sold it to defendants Rufus Bethea, Bianca Cook, and Demarcus Hough.

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 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.

Defendant Courtney Gissendanner was the 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.

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

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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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