Skip to main content
Press Release

Chicago-Area Rap Artist Pleads Guilty to Role in Nationwide Fraud Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
Defendant responsible for $102,000 in victim losses; used funds for private jet charters and luxury hotels

BOSTON – A Chicago-area man pleaded guilty on March 8, 2024 in federal court in Springfield, Mass. to his role in a nationwide wire fraud conspiracy that victimized businesses and individuals across the United States.  

Joseph Williams, 32, of University Park, Ill., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. U.S. District Court Judge Mark G. Mastroianni scheduled sentencing for June 28, 2024. Williams was indicted by a federal grand jury in December 2020 along with five co-defendants, including rap promoter Antonio Strong, rap artist Herbert Wright and Demario Sorrells.

Williams was a rap artist known as “Joe Rodeo,” “Rockstar Rodie,” or “Rodeo,” based in the Chicago area. Beginning in at least March 2017 through November 2018, Williams, Sorrells, Wright and allegedly Strong and two other co-defendants, conspired to defraud numerous businesses and individuals throughout the United States by using unauthorized and stolen payment card account information of real individuals – including the actual cardholders’ names, addresses, security codes and account expiration dates. The defrauded businesses and individuals successfully processed the fraudulent transactions and provided the goods and services to Wright and his alleged co-conspirators. The actual cardholders discovered these transactions on their accounts and disputed the charges with their card companies who then charged back the transactions to the businesses and individuals, which consequently suffered losses in the amounts of the unauthorized transactions.

Williams received illicit account information allegedly from Strong on numerous occasions, and used it to make purchases knowing the account information was stolen.  He also took numerous private jets, commercial flights and stayed in hotels that were paid for with the illicit account information. Although Williams did not personally conduct all of the transactions that benefitted him, he knew (or reasonably should have known) that others were purchasing his flights and hotels in a fraudulent manner. In total, Williams was responsible for $102,000 in victim losses. 

On Jan. 11, 2024, Wright was sentenced to three years probation and was ordered to pay restitution and forfeiture of $139,968. In July 2023, Wright pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of making a false statement to a federal official. On Feb. 2, 2024, Sorrells pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 28, 2024.

The charge of wire fraud conspiracy provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to five years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case. 

Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy and Andrew Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Boston Field Office made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow of the Springfield Branch Office and Trial Attorneys Andrew Tyler and Kyle Crawford of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.  

Updated March 12, 2024

Financial Fraud