Serial Con Artist Pleads Guilty To Bank Fraud And Aggravated Identity Theft
Tampa, Florida – Acting United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Latasha Callens (35, Tampa) yesterday pleaded guilty to bank fraud, access device fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Callens faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Callens was indicted on July 24, 2013.
According to the plea agreement, Callens committed crimes from at least as early as July 2011 through May 2013, when she was finally arrested. She committed many of the crimes while on release from state charges, after having failed to appear to face them. Over a period of two years, and at least 58 times, Callens defrauded banks and individuals. As part of her scheme Callens would approach people, usually at ATMs, and give them a sad story about her need to cash a check and her inability to deposit the check into her bank account. Callens would convince her victims to deposit the checks, which were worthless, into their own account and then withdraw funds, sometimes giving them $100 for their trouble.
Callens’ checks were generally drawn on closed accounts, because the checks had been stolen or were from the accounts of deceased individuals. When she was arrested for failure to appear warrants in May 2013, some of the items recovered from Callens included a checkbook, stolen from a purse at a local mall, along with the victim’s (“T.M.”) Florida Driver’s License, Social Security card, a Visa card, and a GTE FCU debit card. At no time was Callens given permission, by the victim, to possess or use these items. Callens also used “T.M.’s” name to rent vehicles.
On December 27, 2012 and December 29, 2012, Callens also committed access device fraud (credit card fraud) by using the stolen identity of “T.J.” (including the date of birth and Social Security Number) to obtain dental care at a Clearwater dental office. Callens was assisted by another woman, who claimed to be “E.A.” (a victim of identity theft from Opa Locka, Florida). “T.J.” purchased $12,000 worth of dental services under the false pretense that “E.A.” would consent to pay for the treatment. Using “E.A.'s” stolen credit card number, Callens paid for herself to receive a root canal, a bridge, an extraction, a temporary crown, a retainer, anesthesia, and other items and services.
For tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012, Callens committed mail fraud, defrauding the Internal Revenue Service and certain taxpayers. Similar to the bank fraud scheme and access device fraud, Callens stole the identities of taxpayers, then using her laptop, Callens filed false and fraudulent tax returns with those stolen identities. As a result Callens obtained tax refunds to which she was not entitled. The refunds were often accessed through bank-issued debit cards, many of which were mailed to Callens.
This case was investigated by Tampa Police Department, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Temple Terrace Police Department, the Clearwater Police Department, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, and the United States Secret Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas N. Palermo.