Greenbelt, Maryland – Mateus Vaduva, age 29, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty on November 17, 2021 to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, in connection with a scheme to steal from the mail donation checks intended for religious institutions.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Postal Inspector in Charge Daniel A. Adame of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Special Agent in Charge Shimon R. Richmond of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG); Chief Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County Police Department; Chief Toni Dezomits of the Cary, North Carolina, Police Department; and Sheriff Dusty Rhoades of the Williamson County, Tennessee, Sheriff’s Office.
According to his guilty plea, beginning in June 2018 to January 2021, Vaduva and his co-conspirators conspired to steal checks from the U.S. mail intended for religious institutions and deposit the illegally obtained funds into multiple fraudulent bank accounts at various victim financial institutions. Conspirators, including Vaduva, conducted the thefts by driving to roadside mailboxes of churches and other religious institutions and removing the mail, specifically targeting donation checks.
As part of the scheme to defraud, Vaduva and other co-conspirators fraudulently opened bank accounts at victim financial institutions under false identities. Conspiracy members often opened fictitious bank accounts with the aid of a conspiracy member that was an employee at one of the victim financial institutions. In addition, Vaduva and his co-conspirators used at least two extended family members who were minors to assist in the account openings.
Vaduva and co-conspirators then withdrew cash from the fraudulent bank accounts through ATMs and spent the illegally obtained proceeds using debit cards associated with the bank accounts.
Throughout the scheme to defraud, Vaduva personally deposited at least approximately 126 stolen checks totaling at least approximately $79,551.07. In total, co-conspirators deposited at least 3,067 stolen checks from Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and elsewhere, totaling
in approximately $1,307,484.23.
As stated in his plea agreement, Vaduva and his co-conspirators will be required to pay restitution in the full amount of the victims’ losses, which is at least $1,307,484.23.
Vaduva faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud. U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang has scheduled sentencing for February 18, 2022 at 2 p.m.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, HSI, the FDIC Office of Inspector General, the Montgomery County Police Department, the Cary (North Carolina) Police Department, and the Williamson County (Tennessee) Sheriff’s Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Wright, who is prosecuting the case.
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