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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Four Men Plead Guilty to $1 Million Card-Cracking Fraud Scheme

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Four fraudsters pleaded guilty today to their respective roles in a $1 million bank fraud conspiracy.

According to court documents, Caesar Adigwe, 32, of Charlottesville, and three Maryland men, Chea Yarl, 31, of Hyattsville, Samuel Smith, 31, of Hagerstown, and Thomas Gherense, 32, of Laurel, worked together to defraud numerous financial institutions throughout Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia. From 2013 to 2019, they engaged in numerous card-cracking schemes where they deposited counterfeit checks into bank accounts belonging to third parties and then made cash withdrawals or purchased money orders with debit cards associated with the accounts. During the conspiracy, the defendants produced at least 300 counterfeit checks and opened numerous business accounts using fake IDs. Total losses amounted to at least $1 million.

Yarl pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, one count of bank fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft, and faces a mandatory minimum of two years in prison and a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison when sentenced on June 12. Smith, Adigwe, and Gherense pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and each face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Smith and Gherense are scheduled to be sentenced on June 5. Adigwe is scheduled to be sentenced on June 19. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Timothy M. Dunham, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Division, FBI Washington Field Office; Colonel Gary T. Settle, Superintendent of Virginia State Police; and Peter R. Rendina, Inspector in Charge of the Washington Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady accepted the pleas. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kellen S. Dwyer and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachael C. Tucker are prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:20-cr-046, Case No. 1:20-cr-047, Case No. 1:20-cr-048, and Case No. 1:20-cr-049.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Identity Theft
Contact: 
Joshua Stueve Director of Public Affairs joshua.stueve@usdoj.gov
Updated February 18, 2020