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Press Release

Former Cell Service Associates and Co-Conspirator Facing Federal Indictment for Aggravated Identity Theft, Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, and Wire Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maryland
Allegedly Fraudulently Stole over $500,000 Worth of Cell Phones using the Personal Information of at least 17 Victims

Baltimore, Maryland – A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging four individuals for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The indictment was returned on April 29, 2021 and unsealed on May 13, 2021 upon the arrest of the final defendant. The four defendants are:

Reginald McElrath, age 40, of Cockeysville, Maryland;

Chantelle Harris, age 33, of Hyattsville, Maryland;

Robert Patterson age 21, of Odenton, Maryland and;

Danisha Thomas age 37, of Bladensburg, Maryland.

The indictment was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner and Postal Inspector in Charge Peter R. Rendina of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division.

According to the indictment, from July 2019 to January 2020, McElrath, Harris, Patterson, and Thomas allegedly used the identifying information of at least 17 individuals to obtain new cell phones.  McElrath, Harris, and Patterson worked in Maryland for a vendor contracted by a multinational retail corporation to handle all contractual wireless phone transactions in their stores.   As cell service associates, McElrath, Harris, and Patterson were required to obtain the personal identifying information (PII) of customers in order to initiate a new account or upgrade an existing account.  The indictment alleges that McElrath, Harris, and Patterson used their positions to apply for new cell phone accounts with various carriers and to apply for upgraded cell phones on existing cell phone accounts in the victims’ names using the PII of the victims without their knowledge or permission.  McElrath, Harris, and Patterson allegedly charged purchases of new cell phones to fraudulent cell phone service accounts they opened in the victims’ names and none of the costs were borne by members of the conspiracy.

The indictment also alleges that co-conspirators, including Thomas, would receive the fraudulently obtained cell phones directly from McElrath, Harris, Patterson and others from inside the retail store.  One or more of the co-conspirators allegedly distributed the fraudulently obtained cell phones to other co-conspirators at the cost of the identity theft victims. 

In sum, the defendants allegedly used the stolen PII of 17 individual victims to fraudulently obtain at least $537,000 worth of cell phones.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for wire fraud and a mandatory minimum of two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentenced imposed, for aggravated identity theft.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Thomas had an initial appearance yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.  The other three defendants previously had initial appearances on a related federal criminal complaint.

An indictment is not a finding of guilt.  An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings. 

Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary W. Setzer and Matthew J. Maddox, who are prosecuting the case.

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Marcia Murphy
(410) 209-4854

Updated May 14, 2021

Financial Fraud
Identity Theft