Florida Man Found Guilty on Charges of Conspiring to Commit Mail and Wire Fraud, Obstruct Official Proceedings
Claimed over $1.6 million in fraudulent refunds
RICHMOND, Va. – Eddie Blanchard, 37, of Miami, Florida, was convicted yesterday by a federal jury on charges of Conspiracy to Commit Mail and Wire Fraud, Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Aggravated Identity Theft, Conspiracy to Obstruct Official Proceedings, and Obstruction of Official Proceedings.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Thomas J. Kelly, Special Agent in Charge, Washington, D.C. Field Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation; David M. McGinnis, Acting Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service; and Douglas A. Middleton, Chief of Henrico Police Division made the announcement after the verdict was accepted by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson.
Blanchard faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each of the two conspiracy counts, fourteen fraud counts and one obstruction count, and a mandatory consecutive 2 years on the aggravated identity theft count when sentenced on August 7, 2015. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Blanchard was indicted on October 7, 2014. According to evidence presented at trial, Blanchard participated in a Miami-based stolen identity refund fraud scheme. He and three confederates, Ramoth Jean, Junior Jean Merilia, and Jimmy Lord Calixte traveled repeatedly to Richmond in the early part of 2012 and used stolen personal identifying information to file hundreds of fraudulent tax returns, utilizing online tax preparation programs. Blanchard and his accomplices claimed significant refunds on those fraudulent returns, and requested that those refunds be placed on pre-paid debit cards, which were later mailed to Richmond addresses selected by the conspirators.
The scheme began to unravel when a Henrico County police officer encountered Jean removing a box containing stolen personal identifying information from a storage unit rented by the co-conspirators. Following Jean’s subsequent arrest on June 20, 2013, Blanchard convinced him to mislead federal investigators about the identity of his actual co-conspirators, going so far as to facilitate the creation of a fictional accomplice. Jean ultimately refused to testify before a federal grand jury about this matter.
On January 9, 2014, Jean was sentenced to 114 months’ imprisonment for his role in the fraud scheme. His sentencing on a separate contempt charge for his refusal to testify before the grand jury is scheduled for May 21, 2015. Merilia pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and obstruction of official proceedings. His sentencing is scheduled for June 19, 2015. Calixte is currently a fugitive.
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division and the United States Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the Henrico County Police Department as members of the Metro-Richmond Identity Theft Task Force. Other member agencies of the Task Force include: the United States Secret Service, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the U.S. Department of State, Richmond Police Department, and Chesterfield County Police Department. Prosecutions for the Task Force are handled by the United States Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael C. Moore and Thomas A. Garnett are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case Nos. 3:13cr136, 3:14cr73, 3:14cr139, and 3:15cr39.