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Press Release

Orange County Man Pleads Guilty to $1.2 Million Check Fraud Scheme He Promoted on Social Media

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

SANTA ANA, California – A convicted felon from Orange County who used social media to instruct his Instagram followers on how to defraud banks pleaded guilty today to conspiring with a bank employee and others to commit a check fraud scheme in which they sought $1.2 million.

Meshach Samuels, 26, of Placentia, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition.

According to his plea agreement, from May 2021 to March 2022, Samuels urged his Instagram followers to join his Telegram chat groups, where – for a fee of up to thousands of dollars – he would provide instructions on how to recruit accomplices and commit check fraud to steal money from banks.

Samuels and his accomplices would create fraudulent checks drawn on victim accounts, frequently using stolen information obtained from a bank teller and other sources. Samuels’ co-conspirators, aided and abetted by Samuels, would deposit the fraudulent checks into third-party accounts.

Once the check amounts were credited to the third-party accounts, Samuels’ co-conspirators, aided and abetted by Samuels, fraudulently withdrew money in amounts below $10,000 to avoid triggering bank scrutiny. The corrupt bank teller was paid a portion of the cash the conspirators obtained from negotiating fraudulent checks.

This check fraud scheme attempted to obtain at least approximately $1.2 million and caused actual losses of at least $400,000.

Samuels also admitted in his plea agreement that he participated in a scheme to defraud the California Employment Development Department (EDD) through the submission of fraudulent applications for pandemic-related unemployment insurance that contained stolen identity information. Those fraudulent applications included information from individuals who resided outside California, were deceased, or who otherwise were not eligible for unemployment insurance. Members of the scheme provided EDD with a set of common mailing addresses they controlled for multiple applications.

After EDD approved the fraudulent applications and disbursed the pandemic benefits to EDD debit accounts, Samuels and his co-schemers used the debit cards to withdraw cash at ATMs.

In total, Samuels caused at least $14,250 in actual losses to EDD.

In addition, Samuels, whose criminal history includes felony convictions in Florida for aggravated battery on a law enforcement official with an enhancement for attempted murder, admitted to unlawfully possessing firearms and ammunition. Specifically, during an August 2021 traffic stop in Costa Mesa, police officers found a firearm and ammunition concealed on his person. In March 2022, federal agents searched Samuels’ residence and seized five firearms and ammunition.

United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney scheduled an October 23, sentencing hearing, at which time Samuels will face a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for the bank fraud conspiracy count and up to 10 years’ imprisonment for each count of illegally possessing firearms and ammunition.

In a related case, Sasha Lizette Jimenez, 26, Samuels’ former girlfriend, pleaded guilty on May 22 to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud for running the EDD fraud scheme in which Samuels participated. Jimenez, who was the bookkeeper for the conspiracy, caused the issuance of at least $2.8 million in fraudulent UI benefit debit cards – and at least $2.3 million was withdrawn from those debit cards. Judge Carney has scheduled an October 30 sentencing hearing for Jimenez.

The investigation into this scheme was conducted by the Los Angeles El Camino Real Financial Crimes Task Force, a multi-agency task force led by Homeland Security Investigations that includes federal and state investigators who are focused on financial crimes in Southern California. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration also participated in this investigation. The Costa Mesa Police Department, the Inglewood Police Department, the Placentia Police Department, the New York City Police Department, and the Miami Beach Police Department provided assistance.

Assistant United States Attorneys Rachel N. Agress of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section, and David Y. Pi of the Major Frauds Section are prosecuting Samuels. AUSA Agress is prosecuting Jimenez.


Thom Mrozek
Director of Media Relations
(213) 894-6947

Updated May 25, 2023

Financial Fraud
Firearms Offenses
Press Release Number: 23-121