Baltimore Fraudster Sentenced To Over 4 Years In Prison For His Role In Scheme To Defraud Retail Stores
Stole Merchandise from Retail Stores and Exchanged the Stolen Items for Gift Cards
Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III, sentenced Mark Brunelle, age 47, of Baltimore, today to 51 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for a wire fraud conspiracy in connection with a scheme to steal merchandise from large retailers, then return the stolen items to the stores in exchange for gift cards. Judge Russell also ordered Brunelle to pay over $210,000 in restitution.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Brian Murphy of the United States Secret Service - Baltimore Field Office.
According to his plea agreement, from January 2009 through February 2013 Brunelle participated in a conspiracy with Melissa Perry, Deanna Lynch and others, known as boosters, to steal merchandise from large retail stores throughout Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Prince George’s, Howard and Harford Counties in Maryland, as well as Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The boosters then returned the stolen items in exchange for store gift cards. They used modified Maryland driver’s licenses that contained the personal identifier information of actual persons, without those persons’ knowledge, when returning the stolen items without a receipt. For example, throughout the month of February 2012, Brunelle made returns on seven different days totaling over $1,700 to eight different Home Depot stores in Howard, Baltimore, and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland and Falls Church, Alexandria, and Fairfax Counties in Virginia.
Co-conspirator John Tadros, who owned Busy Bees Convenience Mart located at 335 South Monroe Street, and J&J’s Bar and Liquor located at 1801 Ramsay Street, both in Baltimore, bought the fraudulently obtained gift cards from the boosters for 50% of the card’s value. If Tadros was not present or was otherwise occupied, Tadros instructed store manager Mohamed Al-Omeri, or other store employees, to purchase the cards on his behalf.
On February 27, 2013, the U.S. Secret Service executed search warrants and seized 32 fraudulently obtained gift cards from Tadros’ home and 329 retail store receipts for purchases made with fraudulently obtained gift cards from Busy Bee.
The actual loss to retailers in Maryland caused by the scheme is $401,326.12.
John Tadros, age 45, Melissa Perry, age 34; Deanna Lynch, age 44, and Mohamed Al-Omeri, age 39, all of Baltimore, previously pleaded guilty to their participation in the scheme. Tadros is scheduled to be sentenced on July 1, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. Perry and Lynch were sentenced to 30 months and 18 months in prison, respectively, and were ordered to pay restitution of $401,326.12. Al-Omeri was sentence to one year of probation and ordered to pay restitution of $35,000.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the U.S. Secret Service - Baltimore Field Office for its work in the investigation, and commended the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office for its assistance. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney Mark W. Crooks, who is prosecuting the case.