Greenbelt, Maryland –Paul Essel, age 26, of Laurel, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with two bank fraud schemes.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Postal Inspector in Charge Gary R. Barksdale of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division; John L. Phillips, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Inspector General; and Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Michalko of the United States Secret Service – Washington Field Office.
“Stealing mail to commit identity theft and bank fraud not only jeopardizes people’s trust in the U.S. postal system, it threatens the overall financial health of our communities,” said Postal Inspector in Charge Gary Barksdale, U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division. “With our partner law enforcement agencies, Postal Inspectors will continue to aggressively investigate these crimes.”
According to his plea, from June 14, 2010 to March 11, 2013, Essel and Nelly Dadson opened bank accounts in their own names and in the names of shell corporations that they controlled. Essel and others used counterfeit checks that resembled convenience checks that had been stolen from mailboxes in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. The counterfeit checks contained names, addresses and account information that appeared on the convenience checks. Essel deposited these counterfeit checks into accounts controlled by the conspirators and then withdrew funds from the accounts. Essel also provided checks to Dadson with instructions to deposit these counterfeit checks into accounts that she controlled, withdraw the funds and provide the funds to Essel, for which Essel paid Dadson.
In addition, from June 14, 2010 to November 13, 2012, Essel and Dadson conspired to defraud Home Depot. On multiple occasions, a conspirator placed an order by phone with a Home Depot store for flooring in amounts ranging from $2,500 to $8,000, using a stolen credit card number. Within a few days, a conspirator called to cancel the order and supplied a debit card number of a conspirator, including Essel and Dadson, requesting that the refund for the order be placed on the conspirator’s debit card. At Essel’s request, Dadson received 38 credits to her bank accounts totaling approximately $141,159.07, which she then withdrew and provided to Essel. Essel paid Dadson $600 to $800 per transaction. Essel also received at least three credits to his bank accounts totaling approximately $8,902.96, which he withdrew.
The total loss caused by Essel’s conduct is between $400,000 and $1 million, and involved between 10 and 50 victims.
Essel faces 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. Essel has agreed to pay forfeiture and restitution of at least $418,435.48. U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm scheduled his sentencing for May 13, 2014.
Nelly Dadson, age 23, of Baltimore, previously pleaded guilty to her participation in the schemes and is scheduled to be sentenced on January 24, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. Dadson has agreed to pay forfeiture and restitution of at least $251,745.52.
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. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Treasury – Office of Inspector General and U.S. Secret Service for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bryan Foreman and Christen A. Sproule, who are prosecuting the case.