Verdict Returned in Bank Fraud Trial in Houston
|Nov. 16, 2011|
HOUSTON – Steven Jerome Wilson, 24, has been found guilty of all counts with which he was charged following the verdicts of a Houston federal jury, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. The jury returned its verdicts just an hour ago after three days of trial and approximately three hours of deliberation.
Wilson was charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, two counts of bank fraud and making false statements to a United State Secret Service agent.
During trial, the jury heard testimony that Wilson worked as a recruiter for Iba Lowe in a bank fraud scheme involving Iba Lowe, Netfa Lowe and Voncil Felder. The purpose of the scheme was to defraud Chase banks located in the greater Houston area, which are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Iba and Nefta Lowe, who testified against Wilson at trial, previously pleaded guilty along with Felder.
The government presented eight witnesses who detailed how the Lowes and Felder paid recruiters and recruited individuals themselves to open Chase debit card accounts for the sole purpose of obtaining the debit cards for those accounts. Specifically, Wilson recruited another person who lived in Wilson’s apartment complex to open a Chase Bank account, who received the card from his girlfriend. In exchange for the card, Wilson gave her a $300 money order. The girlfriend, who cooperated with law enforcement, provided a phone number for Wilson to the Secret Service agent investigating the case.
Once Iba Lowe and Netfa Lowe received the debit cards from Wilson, the Lowes and others would then insert fraudulent, valueless checks into the bank accounts via ATMs. The jury learned that once the fraudulent checks had been credited to the accounts, Iba Lowe and Netfa Lowe would make withdrawals and large ticket electronic item purchases at Wal-Mart stores based on the funds supplied via the deposits of the fraudulent checks. Iba and Netfa Lowe would then store the large ticket items in U-Haul vans that Felder helped to rent until they could return the items for cash. The Lowes used this cash to pay recruiters and recruits and to continue the fraudulent scheme.
The Secret Service special agent testified that on or about Aug. 17, 2010, he interviewed Wilson at his place of employment in Houston, at which time Wilson freely admitted he owned a white Crown Victoria vehicle, but denied any involvement with the Chase Bank account fraud scheme. When confronted with information obtained as a result of the investigation regarding Wilson’s recruitment of others to open Chase Bank accounts, Wilson again denied any involvement. The jury also heard testimony that Wilson furthered lied to the agent when he stated that he had heard about some “Jamaicans stealing mail from mail boxes because they knew who had recently opened Chase Bank accounts,” and that they had possibly been involved in a shooting at the apartment complex. When the agent asked Wilson to provide his cell phone number, Wilson again lied and stated he could not recall his cell phone number. His statements were critical in that they were capable of affecting or influencing the investigation.
Wilson knew that these statements were false according to testimony presented at trial. Wilson knew at the time he made the statements to the agent that he did work as a recruiter in this bank fraud scheme and that he did receive money from Iba Lowe for providing him with Chase ATM cards that Wilson obtained from others.
Wilson faces a maximum punishment of up to 30 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $1 million and a five-year-term of supervise release.
The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by the United States Secret Service. Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Leuchtmann and Assistant United States Attorney Carolyn Ferko prosecuted the case.