Six Co-conspirators Have Pleaded Guilty to Targeting Victims of Fraud in Maryland

Stole Credit Cards, Checks and Driver’s Licenses from Vehicles Parked Outside Churches, Day Care Centers and Cemeteries in Order to Impersonate the Victims and Take Up To $200,000 from Victim Bank Accounts

February 3, 2011

Baltimore, Maryland - Oscar Diaz, age 30, and Wayne Curry, age 36, both of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, pleaded guilty today to aggravated identity theft and conspiring to commit bank fraud in connection with a scheme that targeted over 50 victims from Maryland and other states. Four co-conspirators have previously pleaded guilty to their participation in the scheme.

The guilty pleas were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Barbara Golden of the United States Secret Service – Baltimore Field Office; and Chief William J. McMahon of the Howard County Police Department.

According to Diaz’s guilty plea, from August to December 2009, Diaz, Curry, Stanley Augustin, Lamisha Govett, Bridgette Arendas, Willie Felton and others conspired to defraud financial institutions in Maryland, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and Pennsylvania by using stolen personal information to take monies from victims’ bank accounts. Diaz and Augustin were leaders of the organization.

Diaz, Curry, Lovett and Augustin broke into vehicles parked outside churches, day care centers, parks and gyms in Maryland, Florida and elsewhere, and stole credit cards, checks, driver’s licenses, social security cards and other personal identifying information. Diaz’s coconspirators would even follow funeral processions in order to target cars parked at grave yards.

After stealing personal information, Diaz would call a bank employee co-conspirator and obtain information about the particular victim. Felton would fraudulently issue checks belonging to one victim made payable to another victim. At Diaz and Augustin’s direction, women coconspirators, including Arendas, would drive through teller windows at victim banks where the individual victims had bank accounts and impersonate the victim, sometimes donning a wig. These female co-conspirators displayed the victim’s driver’s licenses or other stolen identification. After the women received the victims’ money, Diaz split the proceeds among the co-conspirators.

Diaz admits to defrauding over 50 victims and that he is responsible for up to $200,000 in loss. According to Curry’s plea agreement, Curry is responsible for a loss of $58,004.

As part of Diaz’s plea agreement, Diaz and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts the plea agreement Diaz will be sentenced to nine years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. Diaz also agrees to the entry of a restitution order for the full amount of the victims’ losses. Curry faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for the conspiracy, and a mandatory sentence of two years in prison consecutive to any sentence imposed for the conspiracy. As part of his plea agreement, Curry agrees to the entry of an order requiring him to pay $58,004 in restitution. U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson scheduled sentencing for Diaz and Curry on March 8 and April 5, 2011, respectively.

Stanley Augustin, age 28, of Riverdale, Georgia; Lamisha Lovett, age 35, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Bridgette Arendas, age 26, of Lauderhill, Florida; and Willie Felton, age 24, also of Lauderhill, Florida, previously pleaded guilty to their participation in the scheme. Augustin is scheduled to be sentenced on April 22, 2011. Sentencing dates have not yet been scheduled for the remaining defendants.

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. Secret Service and the Howard County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel M. Yasser, who is prosecuting the case.

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