Baltimore Fraudster Sentenced to over 13 Years in Scheme to Steal Identity Information and Cash Hundreds of Stolen Checks
Conspirators Stole an MVA Photo-Taking Machine, and Cut Telephone Lines at Homes from Which Thousands of Pieces of Residential Mail Were Stolen
Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz sentenced Maurice Racks, age 54, of Baltimore, Maryland, today to 164 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and social security fraud in connection with an identity theft scheme used to cash at least over $400,000 in stolen checks during just one year of the decades-long scheme, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.
According to his plea agreement, from the early 1980s until May 2008, Racks and other associates targeted neighborhoods with outdoor mail boxes to obtain thousands of pieces of stolen mail, including identity information, checks and credit cards. They would approach an outdoor mail box with advertising circulars that they would place into the receptacle while simultaneously taking out mail.
Once the mail was stolen, Racks and others would take photos of themselves and others. In the early years of the scheme, they used a photograph-taking machine that was stolen from a Motor Vehicles Administration office by an associate. 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 for the rightful payees 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, Racks and his associates would test the individual for whom the fraudulent identification was made to make certain that he/she was familiar with the rightful payee’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 Racks and his associates cashed thousands of checks with ease. As technology improved, Racks and others began to target more grocery stores and liquor stores.
On September 11, 2007, an associate was arrested for attempting to cash a stolen check presented at a liquor store. On October 4, 2007, Racks fraudulently used a social security number assigned to another person to cash a stolen check. On October 11, 2007, agents searched a motel room where Racks was staying and found a template for a Maryland state identification document, cutouts of state and federal agency emblems and images, fraudulently produced identification documents and a Washington Post article from 2000 concerning the web and identification fakery. Racks was arrested on May 2, 2008.
Over the course of the scheme, Racks and his coconspirators cashed dozens of checks of $5,000 or more, and hundreds of checks of $1,500 or more. Racks is responsible for at least $400,000 in loss based on his participation in the scheme for just one year.
Loquann Johnson, age 53, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and aggravated identity theft and was sentenced on January 23, 2009 to 134 months in prison. Joseph Lawrence, age 44, and Tara Wagner, age 38, both of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and possession of stolen mail in the same scheme and are scheduled to be sentenced on April 14, 2009 at 9:30 a.m. and June 5, 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 prosecuted the case.