News and Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

THURSDAY - March 11, 2010

SENTENCING IN BANK FRAUD SCHEME

RALEIGH - Acting United States Attorney John Stuart Bruce announced that in federal court on March 9, 2010, United States District Judge James C. Dever, III, sentenced NECOLE JOHNSON, 30, of St. Louis, Missouri, to 24 months’ imprisonment followed by three years supervised release and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $719,638.45 for her part 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.

A Federal Grand Jury returned a Criminal Indictment on July 23, 2008, charging JOHNSON. On April 20, 2009, JOHNSON pled guilty to aiding and abetting bank fraud.

From April 2005, to July 2007, co-defendants Eric Davorne Baerga and his brother, Ivan Malik Baerga, both of Newark, New Jersey, along with Roland Ware, of Raleigh, North Carolina, solicited individuals, or recruited others to solicit individuals, 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, some unknown individual(s) 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.

The investigation revealed that a significant amount of the counterfeit checks were drawn on the accounts of individuals who were patients at Dunn Physical Therapy, in Cary. JOHNSON, co-defendant Steven Daniels’ spouse and billing manager at Dunn Physical Therapy, provided the counterfeit checks involved in the case. Over $1.2 million in fraudulent checks were deposited into the various accounts.

Eric Davorne Baerga, Ivan Malik Baerga, Roland Ware and Steven Daniels were sentenced in 2008.

Investigation of the case was conducted by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the United States Secret Service. This case is being handled by the Office’s Economic Crimes Section, with Assistant United States Attorney Felice McConnell Corpening prosecuting the case for the United States.

 

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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