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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 30, 2020

Tehama County Woman Arrested in Bay Area for Indictment in Refund Fraud Scheme

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A Corning woman was arrested in Dublin today for a refund‑fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

The warrant was issued last week after a federal grand jury returned a 14-count superseding indictment against Sabrina Raylene Toilolo, 26, and her previously charged co-defendant Johnathon Ward, charging them with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

According to court documents, Sabrina Toilolo and co-defendants Johnathon Ward, Monica Nunes, and Talalima Toilolo conspired to defraud financial institutions using a refund-fraud scheme. This scheme exploited the refund process used by businesses and retail establishments to pay back customers for returns, reimbursements, and erroneous charges. The defendants posed as merchants and executed fraudulent debit or credit card refunds, which caused the unauthorized transfer of money from a merchant bank account to an account under the defendants’ control.

The defendants committed this scheme by stealing or purchasing point-of-sale (POS) terminals used by businesses to process bankcard transactions. The defendants programmed each terminal to make it appear as if it was authorized by a particular merchant, connected the terminals to payment processing intermediaries, and executed refund transactions even though no purchases had been made. The payment processors, falsely believing the terminals were authorized, approved the refunds and caused the merchants’ banks to transfer funds to the defendants’ accounts. The defendants then drained the stolen funds from the accounts. The indictment alleges that this scheme caused at least $3.5 million in intended victim losses.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) Task Force, which includes investigators from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Artuz is prosecuting the case.

Nunes and Talalima Toilolo have pleaded guilty in the case and have been detained pending sentencing. Charges against Ward are pending.

If convicted, Sabrina Toilolo faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Additionally, if convicted of aggravated identity theft, she faces a mandatory two-year prison sentence, to be served consecutive to any other sentence, and an additional $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; Ward and Sabrina Toilolo are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
2:19-cr-129-MCE
Updated July 30, 2020