Laurel Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges Related to a Bank Fraud Scheme and a Conspiracy to Transport Stolen Vehicles to Africa
Baltimore, Maryland – Issah Mohammed, a/k/a Yissa and Ali, age 28, a citizen of Ghana residing in Laurel, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to federal bank fraud and wire fraud conspiracy charges related to a scheme in which Mohammed and his co-conspirators impersonated individual victims to remove funds from the victims’ investment accounts. Mohammed also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport stolen motor vehicles in connection with his participation in a conspiracy to transport stolen vehicles to Africa.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Andre R. Watson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); U.S. Customs and Border Protection Baltimore Port Director Dianna Bowman; Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Chief Hank Stawinski of the Prince George’s County Police Department.
According to his plea agreement from at least January 31, 2013, through May 12, 2014, Mohammed were part of a conspiracy that acquired stolen vehicles, some of which were stolen from other states and transported to Maryland, and then shipped to Africa for sale. Members of the conspiracy in the United States would hire other to steal vehicles – with the keys – so that the vehicles could be more easily sold. Mohammed and other members of the conspiracy: purchased the stolen vehicles from the thieves or an intermediary; arranged to store the vehicles at parking lots and other locations, known as “cooling spots”; loaded the vehicles into a shipping container; and transported the containers to a port, including the Port of Baltimore, for export to destinations including Lagos, Nigeria and Accra, Ghana.
In order to ship vehicles overseas, shipping companies are required to have valid titles for the vehicles. As part of the scheme, Mohammed and other members of conspiracy used fraudulent title information in an effort to conceal that the cars they sought to ship had been stolen. Mohammed and other conspirators: acquired false Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs) and replaced the true VINs on the stolen vehicles; and registered businesses with the state of Maryland, then used these businesses to create registration paperwork for the vehicles, including false bills of sale utilizing the false VINs. In that manner, the conspirators were able to acquire or forge title(s), registration(s), and proof of insurance for the vehicles to fill out the necessary paperwork in order to be able to ship the cars overseas. The loss for the cars, both recovered and not recovered, was over $200,000.
Further, Mohammed admitted that from March through November 2104, he and his conspirators stole money from the accounts of individual victims. The conspirators obtained the email addresses of victims, then purporting to be the victims, sent emails to investment account managers requesting that funds be wired into a business account controlled by Mohammed or a co-conspirator. They also obtained victims’ account information at various investment account firms and took over the online accounts of the victims. Mohammed and others also created fraudulent checks and cashier’s checks drawn on the victims’ accounts. Conspirators recruited by Mohammed deposited those checks into bank accounts they controlled. Mohammed and others then withdrew or transferred the funds from the business account they maintained to receive the victims’ funds to other accounts controlled by the conspirators before the bank discovered the fraud. The total intended loss was approximately $1,022,183.10. The actual loss, that is funds successfully withdrawn, was $292,463.19.
The proceeds from the bank and wire fraud conspiracy were pooled with the funds used and generated from the purchase and sale of the stolen vehicles.
Mohammed faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for the bank and wire fraud conspiracy, and a maximum of five in prison for conspiracy to transport stolen motor vehicles. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz scheduled sentencing for October 7, 2016 at 2:15 p.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 HSI Baltimore, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Baltimore County and Prince George’s County Police Departments for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Judson T. Mihok and Zachary A. Myers, who are prosecuting the case.