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Press Release

Lakeland Couple Pleads Guilty To Bank Fraud Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida

Tampa, Florida – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Jovanna Deshawn Forte (39) and William Boyd Burns (44) have each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and face a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison.  In addition, both agreed to a money judgment in the amount of approximately $385,450, the proceeds of the bank fraud.  Burns pleaded guilty yesterday, and Forte pleaded guilty on May 12, 2014. The sentencing hearings are scheduled for August 28, 2014, at 9:00 a.m. before Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington.

According to court documents, Forte and Burns used other peoples’ accounts at local banks to deposit third-party checks that were written to the account holders, in amounts ranging from $1,500 to $3,600.  These third-party checks were fraudulent and false when they were deposited by Forte and Burns because the checks were written on closed accounts and accounts that did not have sufficient funds to pay the amount of the check. The checks were deposited into these accounts by ATM, after the financial institution was closed. Forte and Burns then withdrew or attempted to withdraw funds, both in cash and through debit card purchases, which had been credited to the account from the fraudulent check deposits. The withdrawn funds were then used for personal expenditures.  Forte and Burns were recorded on video tape surveillance using nearly 200 accounts at three financial institutions: Mid-Florida Federal Credit Union, SunTrust Bank and Wachovia Bank. They obtained at least $385,450 in funds from their withdrawals and purchases.

This case was investigated by United States Postal Inspection Service, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kelley C. Howard-Allen.

Updated January 26, 2015