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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 17, 2014

Maryland Man Sentenced To 40 Months In Prison For Stealing Over $200,000 In Scam Targeting People Who Thought He Was A Taxicab Driver-Defendant Stole ATM Cards, PIN Numbers From Unsuspecting Passengers-

     WASHINGTON – Nyerere Mitchell, 50, was sentenced today to 40 months in prison for a scheme in which he offered rides to people who had been drinking, talked them into letting him withdraw cash with their ATMS and pin numbers, and then secretly held onto their bank cards to generate more than $200,000 for himself, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.

     More than 60 people, mostly young adults, were conned in the scheme, which continued from at least April 2009 through November 2013. Many of them thought that Mitchell was a taxicab driver. Mitchell, who typically drove a silver-colored SUV Range Rover, often wore a woman’s wig and padded breasts so that many of his passengers believed he was a woman.

     Mitchell, of Clinton, Md., pled guilty in August 2014 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to five counts of first-degree felony fraud. He was sentenced by the Honorable Milton C. Lee. Upon completion of his prison term, Mitchell will be placed on five years of probation. He also must pay $228,036 in restitution.

     According to the government’s evidence, Mitchell frequented areas such as Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, Foggy Bottom, Chinatown, and other busy neighborhoods in the District of Columbia and Arlington, Va., offering rides to individuals he believed had been drinking. The victims, in general, were intoxicated, and would give Mitchell their bank cards and pin numbers and allow him to obtain cash for the rides that they were getting.  Mitchell generally took the passengers to drive-through ATMs on Wisconsin Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. He created situations in which the passengers would need to provide him with the pin numbers and cards because the ATM machines were located on the driver’s side of the vehicle.

     Unbeknownst to the victims, Mitchell often withdrew hundreds of dollars from the ATMs -- as opposed to what they thought would be $10 to $40 fees. Often he would switch the victim’s ATM card with another one that he had earlier stolen from someone else. In fact, Mitchell maintained so many stolen cards that he could easily substitute a similar-looking card so that the victims didn’t notice the switch until much later.

     Over the course of the next few days, Mitchell would use the stolen ATM card without authorization or permission to purchase money orders, many of which he deposited into his credit union account or used to make large purchases at various stores in the area.

     An investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) led to a search in November 2013 of Mitchell’s home. Law enforcement recovered 205 stolen credit cards in plastic bags inside a shoe box. They also found a wig that Mitchell can be seen wearing in bank surveillance video. Mitchell was arrested Nov. 27, 2013.

     In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen commended the work of those who investigated the case for the Metropolitan Police Department. He also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the Prince George’s County, Md., Police Department, Citibank, BB & T Bank, Sun Trust Bank and Wells Fargo Bank. Finally, he acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Corinne Kleinman, Legal Assistant Chris Samson, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie G. Miller, who investigated and prosecuted the matter.

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Updated February 19, 2015