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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tampa Man Pleads Guilty To Check Kiting Scheme

Tampa, FL – United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces that Johnathan Bergren (40, Tampa) today pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Bergren faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

According to the plea agreement, from at least September 2012 through August 23, 2013, Bergren, Christian Morales, and others engaged in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud by engaging in a check kiting scheme. Bergren, Morales, and others recruited by Bergren, engaged in the scheme to defraud by opening up numerous business checking accounts at federally insured financial institutions. Once the co-conspirators established the business checking accounts, they deposited checks drawn on accounts opened at other institutions into the newly established accounts. The conspirators then withdrew funds prior to the checks clearing the banks.  The deposited checks were ultimately returned as Non-Sufficient Funds (NSF), Closed Account, or Refer to Maker. Despite this, Bergren and Morales had already transferred or withdrawn the funds immediately made available to accounts under their control. During the course of the scheme, Bergren and Morales opened more than 30 business checking accounts.  The deposits and withdrawals were done at various federally insured financial institutions in the Middle District of Florida.

To date, Bergren, Morales, and others acting at their direction, deposited checks into accounts at financial institutions totaling approximately $493,017.65, of which $288,682.45 was withdrawn.

Morales previously pleaded guilty for his role in the scheme. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 15, 2014. 

Following his arrest for the instant scheme on or about August 23, 2013, through and including the date of his re-arrest on a second complaint for the same type of activity on or about December 19, 2013, Bergren continued engaging in this check kiting scheme.  During this second phase of the scheme, in which Morales was not involved, Bergren recruited others to open shell companies and corresponding business accounts at Bank of America into which Bergren deposited $32,167.19 worth of NSF or closed account checks. Bergren directed that third parties withdraw funds from these accounts before the NSF or closed account checks deposited into them cleared, and provide him with the cash. This resulted in an additional actual loss to Bank of America of $20,899.30. Thus, to date, Bergren is responsible for an intended loss of approximately $525,184.84 and an actual loss of approximately $309,581.75.

This case was investigated by the Tampa Police Department and the United States Secret Service.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mandy Riedel.

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Updated January 26, 2015