Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar sentenced Wanisha D. Coates, age 25, of Baltimore, today to four years in prison followed by five years of supervised release for bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Special Agent in Charge Brian Murphy of the United States Secret Service - Baltimore Field Office; U.S. Marshal Johnny Hughes; Lt. Colonel Anthony C. Satchell, Acting Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; Fairfax County, Virginia, Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler, Jr.; Easton Police Department Chief David A. Spencer; Anne Arundel County Police Chief Tim Altomare; and Talbot County State’s Attorney Scott G. Patterson.
According to her plea, from at least the winter of 2012 to July 2014, Coates and others created counterfeit credit cards, using stolen or otherwise compromised credit and debit card numbers belonging to others. They encoded the stolen account information onto credit and stored value cards which were then used to obtain money and credit from banks and credit unions. These proceeds were used to buy consumer products, including designer shoes by Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Christian Louboutin, and designer clothes from Neiman Marcus.
On November 2, 2012, Coates and her co-conspirators used altered credit cards to make fraudulent purchases at a Target in Fairfax, Virginia. Coates was arrested and prosecuted in Fairfax County, Virginia for credit card fraud. She failed to appear for her court hearing, and a bench warrant was issued for her arrest.
On April 2, 2013, Coates was stopped by a Maryland State trooper for a traffic violation in Centreville, Maryland. The Trooper smelled burnt marijuana and searched the vehicle, seizing several gift cards, credit cards and “ReloadIt” stored value cards that were altered and rewritten with compromised account information.
On January 11, 2014 Easton Police officers arrested co-conspirator Domenique Miller and another co-conspirator after they tried to buy multiple gift cards at a Staples store in Easton. A number of credit cards fraudulently re-encoded with stolen or compromised account information were seized, along with a small amount of marijuana. Miller advised police that his girlfriend was staying at an Easton motel. Officers arrived at the motel room and were overwhelmed by the odor of raw and burnt marijuana as they entered. Present inside the room were the girlfriend and Coates. Coates identified herself as “Wanda C. Redd,” who is in fact her mother. Coates was arrested. Officers seized 44 credit or stored value cards, many of which had been fraudulently altered. Coates appeared at the Talbot County District Court for a hearing relating to this incident, and again assumed the identity of Wanda Redd.
On March 13, 2014, Anne Arundel County Police responded to a call from a man at a motel in Linthicum, Maryland who said he had been cut in the face with a knife by Coates. Police found Coates and the man outside of their motel room. Police seized approximately 27 credit and gift cards, some visibly altered, and a device for reading, erasing and writing data on magnetic strips of credit cards.
On May 22, 2014, the Virginia state case against Coates was dismissed and Coates was taken into federal custody on charges of access device fraud. She was transported to federal court in Baltimore for an initial appearance, and ordered released on the condition that she reside at a halfway house awaiting additional court proceedings. She was also ordered not to leave Maryland. However, on June 4, 2014, Coates left the halfway house for a physical examination and never returned. A federal arrest warrant was issued, based on her absconding from court ordered supervision at the halfway house.
On July 23, 2014 the U.S. Marshals Service Regional Fugitive Task Force located Coates at a motel in Belleville, New Jersey. Task force officers arrived at the motel room, which smelled strongly of burnt marijuana, and arrested Coates. Officers seized marijuana, a credit card embossing device, electronics, and approximately 100-150 stored value cards or credit cards, some of which had been fraudulently re-encoded with stolen credit card information.
The loss attributable to Coates during the course of the conspiracy is between $120,000 and $200,000 and involves up to 49 victims.
Domenique R. Miller, age 20, of Newnan, Georgia, previously pleaded guilty to his participation in the scheme and awaits sentencing.
The Maryland Identity Theft Working Group has been working since 2006 to foster cooperation among local, state, federal, and institutional fraud investigators and to promote effective prosecution of identity theft schemes by both state and federal prosecutors. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Working Group, demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement agencies to work with financial institutions and businesses to address identity fraud, identify those who compromise personal identity information, and protect citizens from identity theft.
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. Since the inception of FFETF in November 2009, the Justice Department has filed more than 12,841 financial fraud cases against nearly 18,737 defendants including nearly 3,500 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the HSI Baltimore, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Marshals Service, Easton Police Department, Maryland State Police, Anne Arundel County Police Department, Fairfax (Virginia) County Police Department, Talbot County State’s Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service Regional Fugitive Task Force for their work in the investigation and related prosecution. Mr. Rosenstein praised the Fairfax County (Virginia) Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and Lyndhurst (New Jersey) Police Department for their assistance in the investigation and prosecution. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Myers, who prosecuted the case.