Four Defendants Plead Guilty in Fraudulent Prepaid Cards Scheme
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Four defendants recently pleaded guilty in federal court to charges stemming from a wide-ranging scheme to defraud UniRush, LLC, a provider of prepaid stored value cards. A total of eight defendants thus far have entered guilty pleas as part of this investigation.
Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; William G. Frantzen, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service’s Richmond Field Office; Gary Barksdale, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service; and Richard W. Myers, Chief of Newport News Police, made the announcement after the last plea was accepted today by United States District Judge Raymond A. Jackson.
The four defendants who recently entered guilty pleas in this matter were Jamal Greene, 27, Knhesha Strickland, 27, Almira Dobson, 25, and Sam McGill, 36. Greene and Strickland reside in Hampton, Va., and Dobson and McGill reside in Newport News, Va.
Green pleaded guilty on Jan. 23, 2014, Dobson and McGill pleaded guilty on Jan. 28, and Strickland pleaded guilty today. All four defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of twenty years in prison. Greene also pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated identity theft, which carries an additional mandatory term of two years in prison.
According to court records, from at least October 2010 through March 2012, the defendants and others engaged in a fraudulent scheme to obtain funds from UniRush, LLC, which does business as UniRush Financial Services. UniRush provides prepaid Visa debit cards in the United States (referred to as Visa “RushCards”), which are used to deposit money, withdraw cash, make purchases, shop online and pay bills. Through its RushCard program, UniRush allows customers to “reload” the RushCards in a number of ways, including by direct deposit, at MoneyGram locations and through various online means.
Green Dot Corporation offers prepaid debit or credit cards that work similarly to a RushCard. Green Dot also offers a product called a “MoneyPak” that can be purchased for a set amount (ranging from $20 to $500 at most retailers and up to $1,000 at Walmart stores). Individuals who purchase RushCards can use Green Dot MoneyPaks to “reload” money onto their RushCard.
Around March 2012, the Peninsula area of the Eastern District of Virginia experienced a surge in the purchase of Green Dot MoneyPaks from local retailers, including Walgreen’s, Rite Aid and 7-Eleven stores. Around April 2012, UniRush detected an error in its computer accounting system that allowed customers to make multiple fraudulent loads onto their RushCards using the same MoneyPak. In this way, certain customers obtained double the value of their MoneyPak.
Around October 2010, defendant Jamal Greene learned online about the fraudulent uploading scheme, and he then began conducting the scheme with others. From around October 2010 through March 2012, Greene and his confederates made hundreds of fraudulent uploads to their RushCard accounts by using Green Dot MoneyPaks. The transaction activity also revealed fund transfers between the defendants’ RushCard accounts and the accounts of other individuals who also engaged in the fraudulent uploading scheme.
The total loss to UniRush resulting from the fraudulent conduct was approximately $5.5 million from 2010 through March 2012, with $4.5 million of those losses occurring from December 2011 through March 2012.
Jamal Greene is scheduled to be sentenced on June 2, Almira Dobson is scheduled to be sentenced on June 9, Sam McGill is scheduled to be sentenced on June 10, and Knhesha Strickland is scheduled to be sentenced on June 11, 2014.
In addition to these four defendants, four other individuals—Andre Banks, Steven Banks, Erika Greene and Javon Whitaker—previously were convicted and sentenced in 2013 for their role in the RushCard scheme.
This case is being investigated by the United States Secret Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Newport News Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Brian Samuels is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
The Newport News Financial Crimes Task Force is a partnership between local, state and federal law enforcement to combat financial crimes on the Virginia Peninsula. Created in July 2010, the task force is comprised of agents from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI, IRS-CID and other federal agencies, along with dedicated officers from the police departments of Newport News, Hampton, James City County, York County and Gloucester. Partners of the task force include Tidewater area financial institutions, credit card companies and the National White Collar Crime Center. Financial crimes with a federal nexus are brought to the attention of the task force by local law enforcement, and members of the task force investigate and refer appropriate cases to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for federal prosecution.A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on https://pcl.uscourts.gov.