Baltimore City Employee And Perry Hall Man Indicted For Conspiracy To Defraud The City Of Baltimore
Baltimore, Maryland - A federal grand jury has indicted Denita Hill, age 25, of Baltimore, and Robert Johnson, age 32, of Perry Hall, Maryland, on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft, related to a scheme to defraud the City of Baltimore through the reissuance of fraudulent checks for pay and benefits. The indictment was returned on May 7, 2014, and unsealed late yesterday upon the arrest of the defendants.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Robert H. Pearre, Jr., Inspector General, City of Baltimore Office of Inspector General; Commissioner Anthony W. Batts of the Baltimore Police Department; and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein.
According to the indictment, Denita Hill was employed as an accountant in the Payroll Accounting Department for the City of Baltimore. Baltimore City employees who left their employment were entitled to a lump sum check of any pay and benefits for which they qualified. Hill was responsible for documenting lost payments and having checks reissued to individuals who had not received their payments. Robert Johnson was employed in the Consumer Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
The five-count indictment alleges that from July 11, through August 2, 2013, Hill and Johnson conspired to defraud the City of Baltimore by using financial and identity information of former employees to request fraudulent employee benefit payout checks which were then deposited into Johnson’s personal account and the funds subsequently withdrawn.
According to the indictment, Hill identified individuals who had received and cashed large lump sum payments and then requested that such checks be reissued, as if they had not been received. These duplicate checks would be printed in a location accessible to Hill, who then delivered the checks to Johnson. The duplicate checks bore a forged endorsement, “Pay to the Order of Robert Johnson,” purportedly signed by the recipient. Johnson endorsed and cashed the checks, and deposited the proceeds into a bank account he controlled. Johnson subsequently withdrew the fraudulently deposited funds.
To conceal the scheme, Hill allegedly told officials from Johnson’s bank, and agents from the Baltimore Office of Inspector General, that she had spoken with the check recipients and that the endorsements were genuine. In fact, the indictment alleges that Hill had not contacted any of the recipients and knew the checks were fraudulent. In addition, when Baltimore City discovered the scheme and recouped the funds, leaving a large deficit in Johnson’s account balance, Hill withdrew cash from her own account to cover the negative balance in an effort to prevent further investigations into the scheme.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the conspiracy and for each of two counts of wire fraud; and two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, for aggravated identity theft. The defendants had an initial appearance and arraignment in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on May 28, 2014, and were released under the supervision of U.S. Pretrial Services.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the Baltimore Office of Inspector General, Baltimore City Police Department and Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney Tamera L. Fine and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Felsen, a cross-designated Baltimore City Assistant State’s Attorney, who are prosecuting the case.