Ninth Conspirator Pleads Guilty in Scheme to Launder $20 Million in Proceeds in Stolen Merchandise - Pawn Shop Case

Scheme to Launder Millions of Dollars in Proceeds of Stolen Over-the-Counter Medicines, Health and Beauty Aid Products, Gift Cards, DVDs, Tools and other Items

June 17, 2010

Baltimore, Maryland - Nicholas Acosta, age 22, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Postal Inspector in Charge Daniel S. Cortez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division; Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department; Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III; and Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Sparkman of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation.

According to his plea agreement, from 2007 to March 2010, Acosta conspired with others to conduct monetary transactions involving the sale of mass quantities of stolen over-the-counter medications, health and beauty aid products, gift cards, DVDs, tools and other merchandise. Shoplifters, also known as “boosters,” stole products from Target, Safeway, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s and other retailers in Maryland and other states. Pawn shops bought large amounts of stolen items from the boosters. Nicholas Acosta and others were responsible for receiving some of the stolen products at We Buy Pawn Shop. Acosta assisted in cleaning the stolen items by removing the security labels and retail tags from the stolen products. Acosta knew that many of his co-defendants and others participated in the scheme. Some of the defendants also had on-line auctions sites, such as eBay and, where they would sell the stolen products far below normal retail value. The stolen products were then delivered to unsuspecting customers via the United States mail. The defendants received payment back by interstate wire transfers using PayPal accounts and through various financial institutions in Maryland.

On March 25, 2010, agents from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Baltimore County Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed search warrants at several pawn shops and related locations. Agents recovered well over $1 million in stolen merchandise, approximately $1 million in bank accounts and over $140,000 in cash, and 44 firearms. Although the entire conspiracy involved approximately $20 million in stolen merchandise, at least $400,000 but less than $1 million in stolen product was reasonably foreseeable to Acosta.

Acosta face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg has scheduled sentencing for Acosta on September 29, 2010 at 10:00 a.m.

Nine defendants have pleaded guilty to the money laundering conspiracy to date, including: Justin Noel Mayhew, age 29; Robert Anthony Reed and Daniel Filip Mimer, both age 27; Spencer Michael Garonzik, age 43; Michael Ender, age 32; and Warren Allen Culver II, age 31; and Michael B. Levy, age 51, all of Baltimore; and Jared Lee Ezra, age 41, of Reisterstown, Maryland. Reed and Mimer are scheduled to be sentenced on July 1, 2010 at 11:00 a.m. and July 15, 2010 at 10:00 a.m., respectively. Ezra is scheduled to be sentenced on August 25, 2010 at 11:00 a.m. Garonzik, Ender and Culver are scheduled to be sentenced on August 26, 2010 at 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 12:00 noon, respectively. Levy is scheduled to be sentenced on September 3, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. and Mayhew is scheduled to be sentenced on September 17, 2010 at 2:00 p.m.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Kwame J. Manley and Richard Kay, who are prosecuting the case.


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