FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
AUSA VICKIE E. LEDUC or
MARCIA MURPHY at 410-209-4885
January 23, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BALTIMORE MAN SENTENCED TO OVER 11 YEARS IN PRISON IN SCHEME TO STEAL IDENTITY INFORMATION AND CASH STOLEN CHECKS
Over Three Decades Conspirators Stole Thousands of Pieces of Residential Mail - Inserting Advertising Circulars Into the Mail Box While Simultaneously Removing the Mail
Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz sentenced Loquann Johnson, age 53, of Baltimore, Maryland, today to 134 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme used to cash stolen checks, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. At sentencing Judge Motz found that Johnson was one of the organizers of the scheme, which had more than 250 victims.
According to information presented to the court at his plea hearing and court documents, from the early 1980s until May 2008, Johnson, Maurice Racks, Joseph Lawrence and others targeted neighborhoods with outdoor mail boxes, heavily canvassing those areas at the beginning of each month and during tax refund season, to obtain thousands of pieces of stolen mail, including identity information, checks and credit cards. They would place advertising circulars in an outdoor mail box while simultaneously taking out mail.
Once the mail was stolen, Johnson, Racks, Lawrence and others would take photos of themselves and others, to be used to produce false identification. They created thousands of fraudulent identifications including social security cards, identifications from federal and state agencies and driver’s licenses. They called check issuing companies posing as legitimate check cashing establishments and requested social security numbers of the rightful recipients of the checks that they had stolen. They also cut telephone lines of residences from which they had stolen mail to prevent a fraud loss or check verification call.
After an identification card was made, Johnson, Lawrence, Racks and their associates would test the individual for whom the fraudulent identification was made to make certain that he/she was familiar with the stolen check recipient’s information in order to avoid detection. To ensure the impersonation was successful, the co-conspirators would use costumes, including medical scrubs, wheelchairs, canes, suits, hats and sunglasses. If the check was a higher dollar amount, the presenter might wear a suit. After use, the costumes were discarded to avoid detection. The co-conspirators preferred to cash the stolen checks at check cashing establishments that did not take a photograph of the check presenter. In the early years of this scheme, these establishments were plentiful and Johnson and his associates cashed thousands of checks with ease. As technology improved, the conspirators began to target more grocery stores and liquor stores.
During several searches executed between September 28, 2007 and May 2, 2008, law enforcement recovered from motel rooms being used by Racks, Lawrence and a co-conspirator, stolen checks sent by institutions including the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, Child Support Enforcement Administration, the Department of the U.S. Treasury, and the Comptroller of Maryland; a FedEx Kinko’s copy card; photocopies of identification cards from the State of Maryland, Baltimore City Department of Social Services, Baltimore City Community College, MVA, and the Social Security Administration; a polaroid camera, used to facilitate the production of false identification documents; two typewriters, the ribbons of which contained identifying information and social security numbers for 301 individuals; supplies to create false identification cards, including glue sticks, passport size photos of individuals including Racks, colored pencils, laminating paper and a typewriter; and more than 78 stolen Netflix DVD’s.
On February 27, 2008, Johnson, posing as the check recipient, went to a convenience store in Baltimore, and using the victim’s social security number, cashed a $2,000 check issued by the State of Maryland that had been stolen from the victim’s mail.
Over the course of the scheme, Johnson and his co-conspirators cashed dozens of checks of $5,000 or more, and hundreds of checks of $1,500 or more. Johnson admitted to cashing over $25,000 in checks in one day. Johnson is responsible for at least $400,000 in loss based on his participation in the scheme.
Maurice Racks, age 53, and Joseph Lawrence, age 44, both of Baltimore, previously pleaded guilty to their involvement in the scheme and are scheduled to be sentenced on February 24, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. and March 20, 2009 at 11:00 a.m., respectively.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Social Security Administration - Office of Inspector General and the Baltimore County Police Economic Crimes Unit for their investigative work. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorney Solette A. Magnelli, who is prosecuting the case.