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Third Baltimore Man Pleads Guilty in Decades -Long Scheme to Steal Identity Information and Cash Stolen Checks


Conspirators Stole Thousands of Pieces of Residential Mail - Inserting Advertising Circulars Into the Mail Box While Simultaneously Removing the Mail

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 24, 2008

Baltimore, Maryland - Loquann Johnson, age 53, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a decades-long identity theft scheme used to cash at least over $400,000 in stolen checks in just the past year, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.

According to information presented to the court at today’s plea as well as court documents, including co-defendants’ admissions, from the early 1980s until 2008, Johnson, Maurice Racks, Joseph Lawrence and others targeted neighborhoods with outdoor mail boxes, heavily canvassing those areas at the beginning of each month and during tax refund season, to obtain thousands of pieces of stolen mail, including identity information, checks and credit cards. They would place advertising circulars in an outdoor mail box while simultaneously taking out mail.

Once the mail was stolen, Johnson and other co-conspirators would take photos of themselves and others, to be used to produce false identification. 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, Johnson, Lawrence, Racks and their 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 Lawrence and his associates cashed thousands of checks with ease. As technology improved, the conspirators began to target more grocery stores and liquor stores.

During several searches executed between September 28, 2007 and May 2, 2008, law enforcement recovered from motel rooms being used by Racks, Lawrence and a co-conspirator, stolen checks sent by institutions including the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, Child Support Enforcement Administration, the Department of the U.S. Treasury, and the Comptroller of Maryland; a FedEx Kinko’s copy card; photocopies of identification cards from the State of Maryland, Baltimore City Department of Social Services, Baltimore City Community College, Security Guard Certification, MVA, and the Social Security Administration; a polaroid camera, used to facilitate the production of false identification documents; two typewriters, the ribbons of which contained identifying information and social security numbers for 301 individuals; supplies to create false identification cards, including glue sticks, passport size photos of individuals including Racks, colored pencils, laminating paper and a typewriter; and more than 78 stolen Netflix DVD’s.

On February 27, 2008, Johnson, posing as the rightful payee, went to a convenience store in Baltimore, and using the victim’s social security number, cashed a $2000 check issued by the State of Maryland that had been stolen from the victim’s mail.

Over the course of the scheme, Johnson and his co-conspirators cashed dozens of checks of $5,000 or more, and hundreds of checks of $1,500 or more. Johnson admitted to cashing over $25,000 in checks in one day. Johnson is responsible for at least $400,000 in loss based on his participation in the scheme.

Johnson faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the conspiracy and a mandatory minimum of two years, consecutive to any other term of imprisonment, for aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz has scheduled sentencing for January 16, 2009, at 10:30 a.m.

Maurice Racks, age 53, and Joseph Lawrence, age 44, both of Baltimore, previously pleaded guilty to their involvement in the scheme and are scheduled to be sentenced on December 19, 2008 at 9:30 a.m. and January 13, 2009 at 9:00 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 is prosecuting the case.

 

 

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