Fourth Defendant Pleads Guilty to Bank Fraud Conspiracy
Baltimore, Maryland – Mark Darnell Peeples, age 31, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and to aggravated identity theft. Peeples is the fourth defendant to plead guilty to a scheme in which the defendants deposited counterfeit checks, drawn on the accounts of identity theft victims, into bank accounts opened by the defendants in the name of shell companies. The defendants then withdrew the funds before the fraud could be detected.
Lead defendant Monika Michelle Hill, age 36, of Baltimore and Cockeysville, Maryland, pleaded guilty on April 19, 2016, to three counts of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, and to committing these offenses while on pre-trial release in another fraud case. Alysia Samon Rascoe, age 26, of Baltimore pleaded guilty on April 18, 2016 to two counts of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and to aggravated identity theft. Christopher Vance McKoy, age 24, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty April 20, 2016, to two counts of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
The guilty pleas were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Brian Murphy of the United States Secret Service - Baltimore Field Office; and Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department.
According to their plea agreements, between March 2013 and July 2014, Hill, Rascoe, McKoy, Peeples, and others opened 22 business bank accounts online, using the personal identifying information of identity theft victims. The bank accounts were funded using forged checks bearing the bank account numbers and forged signatures of other identity theft victims.
For example, Grant U Pleasure, LLC and Kersey’s Recovery, LLC were registered with the State of Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation as businesses on March 12, 2014 and May 19, 2014, respectively. Each of the businesses listed an identity theft victim as the managing member/owner, and used that person’s social security number and date of birth to open online bank accounts for the business. The bank accounts listed the identity theft victim as the sole authorized signer on the account. Shortly thereafter, the co-conspirators deposited counterfeit checks into the accounts, and withdrew the funds before the fraudulent checks were detected.
Specifically, beginning on March 25, 2014, 31 counterfeit checks totaling $51,490 were deposited into three business banks accounts opened online in the name of Grant U Pleasure. A total of $52,433 was drawn out of those accounts by checks being cashed against funds in the accounts. All of the deposited counterfeit checks were from an account belonging to three identity theft victims. Hill deposited three of the counterfeit checks and Peeples deposited four counterfeit checks, each bearing the forged signature of a victim account owner. Once the counterfeit checks were deposited, Hill provided checks to Rascoe, Peeples, and others from the Grant U Pleasure accounts. The checks were made out to them in amounts ranging from $1,500 to $1,800, and bore the forged signature of the purported managing member/owner of Grant U Pleasure. Rascoe and Peeples cashed the checks, providing their driver’s licenses, fingerprints and signatures. They typically kept about $200 of the proceeds for themselves and provided the rest to Hill and others.
Similarly, between June 3 and 5, 2014, eight counterfeit checks totaling $13,810 were deposited into the Kersey’s Recovery bank accounts. Hill deposited four counterfeit checks, including on June 4, 2014, immediately after entering her guilty plea in a separate federal fraud case, and while she was on pretrial release. Hill then provided McKoy and others checks from the Kersey’s Recovery accounts that were made out to them in amounts ranging from $1,200 to $1,400, and bore the forged signature of the purported managing member/owner of Kersey’s Recovery. After cashing the checks, McKoy and others received between $150 and $400, and provided the balance to Hill.
The loss to the bank as a result of the scheme was $179,808.76, the amount actually withdrawn. The intended loss was $233,190.02, the total amount of the counterfeit checks deposited.
Peeples and Rascoe each face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for conspiracy to commit ban fraud, and a mandatory minimum of two years in prison consecutive to any other sentence imposed for aggravated identity theft. U.S. District Judge Ellen L. Hollander has scheduled sentencing for Peeples on August 23, 2016 and for Rascoe on July 20, 2016, both at 2:30 p.m.
Hill, McKoy and the government have agreed that if the Court accepts their plea agreements Hill will be sentenced to 10 years in prison and McKoy will be sentenced to between 21 and 27 months in prison. Judge Hollander has scheduled sentencing for Hill on June 24, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. and for McKoy on July 19, 2016 at 10:00 a.m.
Today’s announcement is part of the efforts undertaken in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established 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 fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the U.S. Secret Service and Baltimore County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Judson T. Mihok, who is prosecuting the case.