Two Co-conspirators Sentenced in Bank Fraud Scheme

September 22, 2011

Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar sentenced Christopher Houston, age 34, of Edgewood, Maryland today to 33 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for bank fraud conspiracy in connection with a scheme to obtain fraudulent loans from credit unions where his girlfriend, co-conspirator Latesha Brown worked. Judge Bredar also entered an order requiring Houston to pay more than $126,000 in restitution.

Judge Bredar also sentenced Latesha Brown’s brother Donald Brown, age 31, of Elkton, Maryland, today to five months in prison and five months home detention, followed by three years of supervised release, for the bank fraud conspiracy.

The sentences 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, Houston and Brown sought fraudulent loans using falsely-created, modified or stolen identities from credit unions where Latesha Brown was employed. Latesha Brown was at the center of a conspiracy. She 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. Latesha 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, Latesha 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. Latesha 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.

Latesha Brown established a cell phone 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 Houston and Donald Brown, listed this number on their loan applications.

On September 21, 2009, Houston accompanied one of his long time friends to Transit Employees Federal Credit Union (TEFCU) where Latesha Brown was working. Latesha accepted a false supporting vehicle invoice from Houston’s friend and processed a $35,500 vehicle loan payable to the friend for a 2006 BMW 750LI. Houston knew that his friend never intended to purchase the vehicle because Houston and Duncan intended to use the loan for a payment to open a gas station.

Houston also applied and was approved for $40,000 fraudulent vehicle loans from TEFCU, Harford County Maryland Federal Credit Union and Municipal Employees Federal Credit Union. Each time, the fraud was detected before the full amount could be withdrawn by Houston or Latesha Brown.

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.

The amount of loss resulting from the scheme for which all of the defendants are responsible is $234,552.

Latesha Brown, age 26, of Edgewood, Maryland, pleaded guilty to her role as the ringleader of the scheme and was sentenced on September 7, 2011 to six years in prison.

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

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