Baltimore, Maryland – A federal grand jury returned an indictment today charging four defendants with conspiring to steal merchandise using stolen personal identifying information of medical patients:
Denise W. Wearing, age 36, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
Michelle Jernell Cole, age 27, of Baltimore;
Chanell Y. Cole, age 30, of Owings Mills, Maryland; and
Yolana Gail Welch, age 39, of Philadelphia.
The indictment 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.
Michelle Cole worked at two medical practices located in Laurel, Columbia and Glen Burnie, Maryland. Her sister, Chanell Cole, worked at a doctor’s office in Baltimore. According to the three count indictment, from January 2010 to April 2013, the Cole sisters used their employment to obtain personal identifying information of over 46 patients, which the defendants used to take over and control the victims’ credit accounts at Macy’s and Bloomingdales. The defendants allegedly used the fraudulently accessed accounts to obtain jewelry, clothing, furniture, televisions and other merchandise and had the fraudulently obtained merchandise delivered to their own residences and to residences of friends and family members. They defendants kept the merchandise for their personal use, sold the items for cash, or returned the items in exchange for gift cards and sold gift cards for cash.
The indictment alleges that during the course of the scheme, the defendants defrauded over 100 victims, obtaining over $750,000 of merchandise using the victims’ accounts.
All of the defendants face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for the conspiracy and bank fraud, and a mandatory minimum of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft to be imposed consecutive to any other sentence. The initial appearances of the defendants are not yet scheduled.
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.
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 thanked the U.S. Secret Service for its work in the investigation and thanked Macy’s fraud investigators for their assistance. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Budlow, who is prosecuting the case.