Chicago-Area Rappers Indicted in Nationwide Fraud Conspiracy
Six defendants charged with using stolen credit cards to pay for private jet and yacht charters, private chefs, security guards, luxury hotels and designer puppies
BOSTON – Six Chicago-area men have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Springfield with participating in a nationwide wire fraud and identity theft scheme that victimized businesses across the United States.
Antonio Strong, 28; Herbert Wright, 25; Demario Sorrells, 34; Steven Hayes, 28; Joseph Williams, 28; and Terrance Bender, all from the Chicago area, were charged in an indictment unsealed yesterday on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Strong is also charged with nine counts of aggravated identity theft; Williams is also charged with three counts of aggravated identity theft; Wright, Hayes, and Bender are also each charged with two counts of aggravated identity theft; and Sorrells is also charged with one count of aggravated identity theft.
On Sept. 14, 2020, Strong was arrested in Chicago and detained by a federal judge; on Nov. 24, 2020, Williams self-surrendered in Chicago and was released on bond; on Nov. 19, 2020, Sorrells and Hayes were arrested in Chicago and released on bond; on Dec. 2, 2020, Bender self-surrendered in Atlanta and was released on bond; and Wright self-surrendered today in the Central District of California. The defendants will make initial appearances in federal court in Springfield on Dec. 7, 2020.
According to the indictment, Strong is a promoter of rap artists, Wright is a rap artist known as “G Herbo,” and Williams is a rap artist known as “Rockstar Rodie.” From approximately March 2016 until the present, the defendants allegedly conspired to defraud numerous businesses and individuals throughout the United States by using unauthorized and stolen payment card account information to obtain valuable goods and services. Specifically, they purchased private jet charters, private yacht charters, exotic car rentals, luxury hotel and vacation rental accommodations, private chef and security guard services, designer puppies, limousine and chauffer services, commercial airline flights, consumer goods, and meals, among other things.
It is alleged that the defendants and their co-conspirators generally provided authentic payment card information, such as the actual cardholders’ names, addresses, payment card account numbers, security codes and account expiration dates, to defraud businesses and individuals who successfully processed the transactions and provided the goods and services. The actual cardholders discovered these transactions on their accounts and disputed the charges, resulting in payment card companies reversing payments and charging back the transactions to the businesses and individuals, who consequently suffered financial losses.
The wire fraud conspiracy and substantive wire fraud charges provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to five years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The aggravated identity theft charges provide for a mandatory two years in prison consecutive to any other sentence imposed. Sentences are imposed based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Frederick Regan, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Boston Field Office made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven H. Breslow of Lelling’s Springfield Branch Office is prosecuting the case with Trial Attorneys Michelle Pascucci and Andrew Tyler of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.