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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Maryland

Thursday, December 18, 2014

District Heights Woman Pleads Guilty in Scheme to use Counterfeit Checks to Buy Store Merchandise and Gift Cards


Conspirators Presented Over 1,400 Counterfeit Checks to Target Stores in Over Two Years, Resulting in a Loss of at Least $485,000


Greenbelt, Maryland – Ebony Nicole Ruffin, age 28, of District Heights, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud Target Corporation.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Michalko of the United States Secret Service - Washington Field Office.

According to her plea, from September 2011 to November 2013, Ruffin, Nichelle Rogers, Sheree Brown and others conspired to use counterfeit personal checks and false identifications to fraudulently obtain Visa gift cards and other merchandise from Target stores in Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Ruffin and her co-conspirators presented over 1,400 counterfeit checks at Target stores as payments for merchandise and gift cards, resulting in a total loss to Target of at least $485,000.

Ruffin used the Visa gift cards to buy items from Target for herself, and to buy merchandise from other retailers, such as Nordstrom, and later returning the merchandise for cash.

Ruffin faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow scheduled her sentencing for March 23, 2015, at 3:00 p.m.

Sheree Lanet Brown, age 35, and Nichelle Nicole Rogers, age 28, both of Washington, D.C., previously pleaded guilty to their participation in the scheme and are scheduled to be sentenced on April 24 and March 23, 2015, respectively.

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

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the U.S. Secret Service for its work in the investigation and thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly O'Connell Hayes and Thomas P. Windom, who are prosecuting the case.

Updated January 27, 2015