News

Leader of Bank Fraud Conspiracy and Two Co-conspirators Plead Guilty

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 8, 2011

Baltimore, Maryland - Latesha Brown, age 26, of Edgewood, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scheme to obtain fraudulent loans from credit unions where Brown worked. Brown’s boyfriend, Christopher Houston, age 34, also of Edgewood, pleaded guilty today to the bank fraud conspiracy. Another conspirator, Brown’s brother, Donald Brown, age 31, of Elkton, Maryland, pleaded guilty to the bank fraud conspiracy on Monday, June 6, 2011.

The guilty pleas were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Postal Inspector in Charge Daniel S. Cortez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division.

According to the plea agreements, from September 2004 through August 2010, Latesha Brown was at the center of a conspiracy that involved a group of friends and family, including Houston and Donald Brown, who sought fraudulent loans, using falsely-created, modified or stolen identities, from credit unions where Latesha Brown was employed. Brown facilitated or processed the fraudulent loan applications for herself and others, including Houston and Donald Brown, accepting false paperwork and stolen materials, including: forged birth certificates and pay stubs; false drivers’ licenses, employment letters, and vehicle invoices; misappropriated social security numbers; stolen notary stamp seals; and bank paraphernalia, such as proprietary ink stamps. Brown also processed the loan applications in a deficient manner, intentionally failing to collect all of the necessary supporting paperwork for a loan, and assisted the co-conspirators in withdrawing their ill-gotten loan funds so as to avoid detection.

From March 26, 2007 through August 5, 2010, Brown, using either a false name and/or the stolen identification information of other individuals, applied for jobs at 29 credit unions and for membership in 19 credit unions. In many instances, she also applied for loans in her own name and other names, using stolen identification information and forged documents.

The conspirators applied for their loans using false pretenses, including vehicle loans with false dealership invoices where no vehicles were to be purchased, or where the vehicle was already owned outright by Houston. Brown facilitated the false vehicle loans so that the conspirators received clear titles to their “financed” vehicles without liens being placed on the vehicles. The absence of the liens meant the credit unions had no collateral when the conspirators defaulted on their loans, so the credit unions were prevented from seizing the vehicle or other assets after the individuals failed to make payments on the loan. Further, the use of the false social security numbers prevented the credit unions from tracking down the borrowers.

According to the plea agreements, Brown established a cellular telephone line exclusively for “Marybeth Wright,” a fictitious former supervisor, which she, Houston, and other conspirators used to receive phone calls from credit union personnel and other prospective employers seeking to confirm their prior employment history. All of the individuals involved in the scheme, including Brown, Houston and Donald Brown, listed this number on their loan applications.

In August 2010, Latesha Brown was employed in the Human Resources Division at an aircraft business in Baltimore. Brown facilitated a job interview for Houston for a permanent position as a mechanic and performed security clearance inquiries in the name of Christopher Brown. Latesha Brown and Christopher Houston arranged for Donald Brown to present himself as Christopher Houston at the business, in order that he might undergo a medical examination, provide a blood test and urine sample as Christopher Houston, to facilitate Houston’s employment as a mechanic at the business. Houston was subsequently hired for the job.

Latesha Brown, Christopher Houston and Donald Brown face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for the bank fraud conspiracy. Latesha Brown also faces two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence, for aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar, has scheduled sentencing for Latesha Brown on September 7, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.; and for Donald Brown and Christopher Houston on September 22, 2011 at 10:00 a..m. and 2:00 p.m., respectively.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for its work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney Mark W. Crooks, who is prosecuting the case.

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