Salisbury Woman Pleads Guilty to Defrauding 13 Banks Using Checks and Credit Cards Stolen from 26 Individuals

Defendant Steals from Homes and Mailboxes, Sometimes After Offering to “Help”

June 21, 2011

Baltimore, Maryland - Carla Nicole Koester, age 38, of Salisbury, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosen stein; Postal Inspector in Charge Daniel S. Cortez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division; and Salisbury Police Chief Barbara Duncan.

According to her plea, from April to August 2010, Koester stole checks and credit cards from homes and mailboxes, altered the checks and used them to obtain money from financial institutions across Maryland and goods from commercial retailers. Koester victimized individuals and financial institutions in Talbot, Somerset, Anne Arundel, Dorchester and Wicomico counties in Maryland, and expanded her scheme into Delaware and Virginia.

Specifically, Koester approached individuals in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia at their homes and inquired whether they needed help. Once inside the home, Koester stole checks and other financial instruments. In other instances, after working in the victims’ homes, Koester later burglarized these homes to obtain checks, cash and credit cards. She also stole checks from resident mail boxes.

Koester either issued the checks to herself and cashed them in her own name, or issued checks from one victim to another victim, and obtained money from banks by using the victim’s name and signature to impersonate the victim. Additionally, video footage from Wal-Mart captures Koester paying for several items by fraudulent check.

Koester defrauded at least 26 individual victims and 13 financial institutions, stealing over $30,000 during the course of the fraud scheme.

Koester faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for mail fraud; and a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft, consecutive to any sentence imposed for mail fraud. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake scheduled sentencing for September 21, 2011, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.

This law enforcement action is part of President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Salisbury Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Budlow and Rachel M. Yasser, who are prosecuting the case.

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