Annapolis Man Sentenced To Four Years In Prison For Real Estate And Credit Card Fraud Schemes
Two co-defendants in credit card fraud scheme also sentenced to prison time
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact ELIZABETH MORSE
www.justice.gov/usao/md at (410) 209-4885
Baltimore, Maryland – On January 30, 2018, United States District Judge James K. Bredar sentenced Joseph R. Dominici, age 31, of Annapolis, Maryland to four years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. The wire fraud charges stem from a telemarketing scheme to defraud real estate professionals around the country who paid to advertise on websites owned by Dominici. The aggravated identity theft charges stem from a scheme to use stolen credit card information to create and use fraudulent “cloned” credit cards.
On January 31, 2018, Judge Bredar sentenced Christina O. Price, age 23, of Bowie, Maryland to one year in prison followed by one year of supervised release, for her role in the credit card fraud scheme. Carlos Ledbetter, age 31, formerly of Annapolis, Maryland, was previously sentenced to six months in prison for his role in the credit card fraud, followed by four years of supervised release.
The sentences were announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Stephen M. Schenning; Special Agent in Charge Christopher Caruso of the United States Secret Service - Baltimore Field Office; Chief Timothy J. Altomare, Anne Arundel County Police Department; and Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Wes Adams.
According to court documents, Dominici owned and operated JJ&M Enterprises, LLC, a business based in Annapolis, Maryland, operating to provide leads to real estate professionals seeking to advertise their services to potential homebuyers. Dominici registered two websites which he and JJ&M used to conduct business: BuyerHomeSite.com and FreeHomeFind.com.
The websites purported to contain active listings of homes for sale, and allowed potential homebuyers to browse home listings in a selected geographic area. The websites also represented to realtors or loan officers that they could pay to become a “preferred expert” in each of the geographic regions that they chose. If a prospective home buyer (user) searched the websites for properties in an area where a real estate professional had paid to become the “preferred expert,” the websites displayed an ad that included the real estate professional’s photograph and contact information. For a monthly fee of approximately $299, the websites would grant a real estate professional exclusive access to all leads generated on the websites associated with the real estate professional’s assigned geographic area.
From March 2014 to October 2015, Dominici represented to real estate professionals that such leads included personal information provided by a potential homebuyer, where in fact, the leads sent to the real estate professionals contained fictitious information created by Dominici and individuals employed by JJ&M. Dominici created fictitious identities, including names, email addresses and cell phone numbers. He provided cell phones to a JJ&M employee which had the name and phone number of a fictitious identity taped to the back. Dominici also posted false and duplicative “testimonials” from “satisfied” customers on the websites.
Dominici had employees make unsolicited telephone sales calls to many thousands of real estate professionals located all over the United States. Dominici provided JJ&M employees with scripts and talking points to use in soliciting real estate professionals to pay to become the “preferred expert” for their area on the websites. As a result of these sales calls, more than 1,000 real estate professionals agreed to pay approximately $299 per month to be advertised as preferred experts.
As a result of this telemarketing fraud scheme, Dominici obtained more than $895,568.31 from real estate professionals. As part of Dominici’s sentence, Judge Bredar also ordered forfeiture of Dominici’s funds in thirteen bank accounts.
In addition to the telemarketing fraud scheme, Dominici also engaged in a credit card fraud scheme, using stolen account information he obtained from corrupt restaurant servers and from a black marked “carding” website to create “cloned” credit cards. Christina Price, then a server at a restaurant in Gambrills, Maryland, used electronic devices known as “skimmers” to fraudulently obtain the credit card information of restaurant customers who paid by credit card. Price then provided this stolen customer information to Dominici, who used special equipment to encode the stolen account information onto new “cloned” credit cards. Dominici and Carlos Ledbetter, then an employee of JJ&M, used the “cloned” cards to purchase goods and services, primarily gift cards that can be used like cash. The credit card fraud scheme victimized a number of financial institutions and dozens of individuals, resulting in losses of approximately $29,280.13.
Acting United States Attorney Stephen M. Schenning commended the U.S. Secret Service, Anne Arundel County Police Department, HSI Baltimore, Prince George’s County Police Department and Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Schenning thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Myers and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Tang, who prosecuted the case.