FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 29, 2013
NEWARK, N.J. – A Newark man was sentenced to 46 months in prison for his role in a scheme to steal personal checks from the U.S. mail, fraudulently endorsed them and deposit them into personal checking accounts, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Kurtis Steele, 27, pleaded guilty Feb. 21, 2013 before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty to an Information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Judge McNulty imposed the sentence today in Newark federal court.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Steele and his conspirators gained access to and stole blank checks that were mailed to unsuspecting victims. Steele and his conspirators then fraudulently endorsed the blank checks for a certain sum and deposited those checks into legitimate bank accounts that they and unnamed conspirators opened at a number of banks, including TD Bank, Bank of America, Capital One Bank, Garden State Community Bank, Hudson City Savings Bank, PNC Bank and Valley National Bank.
Before the victims or banks discovered the checks were fraudulent, Steele and his conspirators had withdrawn the funds, either via Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or by entering the victim bank and filling out a withdrawal slip. U.S. Postal Inspection Service and FBI agents were able to obtain bank video surveillance which captured Steele making fraudulent deposits of the stolen checks and withdrawals of the proceeds of those checks.
Steele and his conspirators deposited $1,478,695 in fraudulent checks stolen from 122 victims. The checks were deposited into 258 different bank accounts opened by the defendants and/or unnamed conspirators. Steele and conspirators’ scheme resulted in $648,194 in losses.
In addition to a prison term, Judge McNulty sentenced Steele to three years of supervised release. Restitution will be determined at a later date.
Several of Steele’s conspirators were previously sentenced for their role in the fraudulent scheme: Constance Bowles, 23, of Newark, was sentenced to six months in prison and six months in a halfway house; Garnet Hinton, 24, of Union, N.J., was sentenced to 23 months in prison; Keonnah McLean, 24, of Newark, was sentenced to 23 months in prison; and Martell Arline, 22, if Newark, was sentenced to 36 months in prison. In addition to the prison terms, each of them was sentenced to three years of supervised release.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates; and special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford, with the investigation leading to the sentences.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dara Aquila Govan of the Organized Crime/Gangs Unit in Newark.
Defense Counsel: Stephen A. Turano Esq., Newark