Salisbury Man Pleads Guilty to Bank Fraud Scheme
Used the Stolen Identity Information of at least 21 Clients of a Residential Mental Health Program to Open Fraudulent Bank Accounts and File False Tax Returns
Baltimore, Maryland - Christopher Andre Devine, age 33; of Salisbury, Maryland, Frederica, Delaware and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to use the personal identifying information of individuals to open bank accounts and fraudulently obtain cash, merchandise and services.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Wicomico County Sheriff Michael A. Lewis; Special Agent in Charge Rick A. Raven of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Michael McGill of the Social Security Administration - Office of Inspector General, Philadelphia Field Division.
“Identify theft is a loathsome, despicable crime that victimizes honest Americans and causes immense hardship to those individuals whose identities were stolen, said Rick A. Raven, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Washington DC Field Office. IRS-CI is aggressively pursuing those who steal others’ identities and reek financial havoc by committing bank fraud and subsequently filing false tax returns. In this case, individuals such as Mr. Devine and his coconspirators are being punished to the fullest extent of the law for their egregious identity theft scheme. This plea should serve as a warning to those who are considering similar conduct.”
According to his plea agreement, from December 2008 through December 22, 2011, in Maryland, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, Devine and his co-defendants, Quanishia Williamson-Ross, age 31; and Lenee E. Williamson, age 22, opened or recruited others to open checking accounts at banks and obtain check cards, which the conspirators then controlled. The conspirators then deposited fraudulent checks into the accounts and used the associated check cards at ATM machines to make cash withdrawals from the accounts.
Devine also purchased the identifying information of at least 21 individuals who were clients in a residential program for adults with mental health needs (the Program), which he purchased from an individual who was employed at the Program. Devine used the personal identifying information of these victims to open checking accounts via the telephone and Internet that he then controlled for use in the scheme.
Devine and his co-conspirators had fraudulent identification documents made using the personal information of others but with photographs of Devine, Williamson-Ross and Williamson, which they used, along with the check cards, to make purchases at retail stores, later returning the purchased items for cash. The conspirators also used the check cards to obtain services, such as utilities, cable, and cellular phone service, and to make purchases for their personal benefit at restaurants, drug stores, grocery stores, gas stations and video rentals, and other businesses.
Devine also participated in a scheme to defraud the IRS by preparing and filing false tax returns in the names of individuals recruited for the tax fraud scheme and using the personal identifying information of clients in the Program. For the 2010 tax year, at least 34 false tax returns were filed, claiming $123,126 in false refunds. Refunds from many of the false tax returns were direct deposited into bank accounts controlled by Devine through the bank fraud scheme.
In December 2011, law enforcement searched a van and two residences in Salisbury used by the co-conspirators. Hundreds of pieces of evidence was seized, including: credit/debit cards; SSN cards; fraudulent driver’s licenses; and personal identifying information such as names, addresses, SSNs, and credit information of approximately 300 individuals, at least 21 of whom were residents at the Program.
Over the course of the scheme, Devine and his co-conspirators used the stolen identifying information of at least 24 individuals to open at least 73 checking accounts at financial institutions, resulting in a loss of at least $200,000.
Quanishia Williamson-Ross, age 31; and Lenee E. Williamson, age 22, both of Salisbury, Maryland, Frederica, Delaware and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, previously pleaded guilty to the same charges.
Devine, Williamson-Ross and Williamson each face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for the bank fraud conspiracy and two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence for aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake has scheduled sentencing for Devine, Williamson-Ross and Williamson on March 1, 2013 at 9:30 a.m., December 17, 2012 and December 11, 2012 at 9:15 a.m., respectively. The defendants are detained.
This law enforcement action is part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked HSI Baltimore, the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office, IRS-CI and the Social Security Administration - Office of Inspector General for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul E. Budlow and Kristi N. O’Malley, who are prosecuting the case.