News and Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

MONDAY - April 20, 2009

WOMAN PLEADS GUILTY IN BANK FRAUD SCHEME

RALEIGH - The Office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina announced that in federal court here today NECOLE JOHNSON, 30, of St. Louis, Missouri, pled guilty before United States District Judge James C. Dever, III, to aiding and abetting bank fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1344 and 2, which has a maximum penalty of up to 30 years imprisonment followed by five years of supervised release and a fine of up to 1,000,000.

A Federal Grand Jury returned a Criminal Indictment on July 23, 2008. JOHNSON was charged along with Eric Davorne Baerga, his brother, Ivan Malik Baerga, Roland Ware, Tivoris Montrel Cutler, and Pastanlin Dontrel Whitaker in a scheme to defraud Branch Banking and Trust, Wachovia Bank, Bank of America and Suntrust Bank by depositing fraudulent checks into various bank accounts and later withdrawing the money from ATMs with the use of debit cards. From April 2005, to July 2007, individuals were solicited to provide them their debit card and account information. Most, if not all, of the account holders were young college students whom were told they could make between $500 to $1,000 by letting someone use their account to deposit checks.

Once the debit card and account information were received, JOHNSON and others would deposit fraudulent checks into the accounts. The banks would credit the accounts with the total amount of the checks deposited allowing the customer access to funds which had not yet cleared the bank processing centers.

Between the time the fraudulent checks were deposited and the banks realized that they were fraudulent, the defendants, the account holders (at the defendants request), or some other unknown individual would withdraw the funds using a debit card, ATMs, or counter/teller checks. Over $1.2 million in fraudulent checks were deposited into the various accounts.

Investigation of the case was conducted by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the United States Secret Service. Assistant United States Attorney Felice McConnell Corpening served as prosecutor for the government.

News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.

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