Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III sentenced Robert Johnson, age 33, of Perry Hall, Maryland, today to a year and a day in prison followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered him to serve 75 hours of community service, for wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft related to a scheme to defraud the City of Baltimore through the reissuance of fraudulent checks for pay and benefits.
On March 4, 2015, a federal jury convicted co-defendant Denita Hill, age 26, of Baltimore, of wire fraud conspiracy and two counts of aggravated identity theft, related to the scheme.
The sentence and trial conviction were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Robert H. Pearre, Jr., Inspector General, City of Baltimore Office of Inspector General; Commissioner Anthony W. Batts of the Baltimore Police Department; and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby.
Johnson worked in the Consumer Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Denita Hill was an accountant in the Finance Department of the City of Baltimore.
Baltimore City employees who leave their employment are entitled to a lump sum check of any pay and benefits for which they are qualified. According to his guilty plea and court documents, from July 11, 2013 to August 2, 2013, Johnson and Hill used the financial and identity information of former Baltimore City employees to request fraudulent employee benefit payout checks. Hill identified individuals who had received and cashed large lump sum payments and then requested that such checks be reissued, as if they had not been received. These duplicate checks were printed at the Baltimore City Finance Office, where Hill stole the checks. Hill delivered the checks to Johnson, endorsed to him and purportedly signed by the original payee. Johnson endorsed and cashed the checks, deposited the proceeds into his bank account and used the funds for his and Hill’s benefit.
For example, on July 11, 2013, Johnson deposited a check fraudulently endorsed to Johnson with the victim’s forged signature, and made out to the victim in the amount of $14,741.09. On July 31, 2013, Johnson deposited a check made out to a second victim in the amount of $58,485.91. Again, the check was endorsed to Johnson with the second victim’s forged signature. Both victims had previously received and cashed their initial lump sum payment checks and the duplicate checks were issued and endorsed to Johnson without their knowledge or permission.
After Johnson attempted to wire some of the funds to pay off an account at a different financial institution, Johnson’s bank was alerted to the suspicious transactions and referred the matter to the City of Baltimore Office of the Inspector General, who sought the assistance of the Finance Department in determining the authenticity of the endorsements. Hill was tasked with the investigation and notified Johnson of the problem. Hill attempted to derail the investigation and obtain release of the funds by the bank by claiming to have spoken with the check recipients, who purportedly confirmed that the endorsements were genuine. In fact, neither statement was true. Meanwhile, Johnson’s bank had reversed the deposits and returned the funds to the City of Baltimore, leaving a large deficit in Johnson’s account balance. Johnson obtained funds from Hill to repay the amount due.
Over the course of the conspiracy, Johnson and Hill fraudulently obtained approximately $70,000 all of which was ultimately recovered.
Denita Hill faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the wire fraud conspiracy; and two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, on each of two counts for aggravated identity theft. Judge Russell has scheduled her sentencing for May 19, 2015 at 2:00 p.m.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the Baltimore Office of Inspector General, Baltimore City Police Department and Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorney Tamera L. Fine and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh J. Felsen, a cross-designated Baltimore City Assistant State’s Attorney, who prosecuted the case.