News

Conspirators Plead Guilty To Scheme Using Medical Patients’ Identities To Fraudulently Obtain Merchandise

Stole Personal Identifying Information of over 100 Individual Victims
to Obtain Over $993,000 of Merchandise

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 27, 2014

Baltimore, Maryland – Denise W. Wearing, age 37, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to obtain merchandise using stolen personal identifying information of medical patients. Michelle Jernell Cole, age 27, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to the same offenses on February 20, 2014.

The guilty pleas were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Brian Murphy of the United States Secret Service - Baltimore Field Office.

According to their plea agreements, Michelle Cole’s sister, Chanell Cole, met Wearing between 2004 and 2005 while both were serving fraud-related sentences in the Maryland Department of Corrections. Chanell introduced Michelle to Wearing.

From 2008 through approximately May 2010, Chanell Cole worked for a rheumatologist who had an office at Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore. Using her access to the physician’s patient files, Cole unlawfully obtained the personal identifying information (PII) of numerous patients, including names, addresses and social security numbers, which she provided to Wearing.

From 2010 through February 2012, Michelle Cole worked at a medical practice in Laurel, Maryland. From February 2012 through February 2013, she worked for a rheumatologist who had an office in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Michelle Cole fraudulently obtained the PII of numerous patients at these medical facilities which she provided to Wearing.

From 2010 to February 2013, the conspirators used the stolen PII to fraudulently open credit accounts and assume control of existing credit accounts at Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom. The conspirators used the accounts to purchase merchandise in the names of the unknowing victims without intending to pay for the goods. The conspirators kept the goods; sold the goods to others in exchange for cash; or returned the goods to the retail stores for merchandise credit and for credit on the accounts of the conspirators. Over the course of the scheme, the identities of over 100 individual victims were used to obtain over $993,000 of merchandise.

Wearing and Michelle Cole face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for the bank fraud conspiracy and a mandatory minimum of two years in prison consecutive to any sentence for the conspiracy. Wearing and Cole have agreed to pay restitution of at least $993,772.43. U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander has scheduled sentencing for Wearing on June 18, 2014, and for Cole on June 16, 2014.

Chanell Y. Cole, age 30, of Owings Mills, Maryland, and Yolanda Gail Welch, age 39, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty on January 3, 2014 to the conspiracy. Judge Hollander has scheduled sentencing for Chanell Cole on April 4 and for Welch on April 25, 2014. Linda Nguyen, age 28, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty to her role in the conspiracy on January 24, 2014 and her sentencing is scheduled for May 9, 2014.

Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the U.S. Secret Service for its work in the investigation and thanked Macy’s fraud investigators for their assistance. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Budlow, who is prosecuting the case.

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