Half Million Dollar Bank Fraud Scheme Results in Federal Prison for San Antonio Man
|June 22, 2012|
HOUSTON – Steven Jerome Wilson, 24, has been sentenced to federal prison for his role in a bank fraud scheme that cost area banks more than a half million dollars, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today. A Houston jury found Wilson guilty of all four counts as charged after a three-day trial in November 2011.
Today, U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon, who presided over the trial, handed Wilson a sentence of 46 months for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, each of two counts of bank fraud and for making false statements to a Secret Service agent, all to be served concurrently. He will also serve five years of supervised release following completion of that prison term.
During trial, the jury heard testimony that Wilson worked as a recruiter for Iba Lowe, 35, in a bank fraud scheme involving Iba Lowe, Netfa Lowe, 34, and Voncil Felder, 23, all of Houston. 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 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.
Netfa Lowe and Voncil Felder were sentenced on April 5, 2012, to 84 and 27 months, respectively. Iba Lowe is scheduled to be sentenced on July 13, 2012.
Wilson has been in custody where he will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The investigation leading to the charges in this case was conducted by the United States Secret Service. Assistant United States Attorneys Andrew Leuchtmann and Carolyn Ferko prosecuted the case.