You are here

Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 20, 2017

Tampa Woman Sentenced To Three Years In Federal Prison For Bank Fraud Conspiracy

Tampa, FL – U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington has sentenced Ebony Stillwell (31, Tampa) to three years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud. The Court also ordered her to forfeit $252,107.07, which are traceable to proceeds of the offense. Stillwell pleaded guilty on October 25, 2016.

 

According to court documents, in December 2014, Stillwell began working as the onsite manager for St. Giles Manor, an apartment complex located in Pinellas Park and managed by SPM Property Management. St. Giles Manor was undergoing a refurbishment and, as part of her duties, Stillwell received and processed invoices from vendors and contractors for payment.

 

During the refurbishment, SPM and St. Giles Manor contracted with Erickson’s Drying Systems, a cleaning and restoration company based in Ft. Myers. In conjunction with this work, Erickson’s submitted invoices for payment to St. Giles Manor and Stillwell that were paid by checks from an SPM LLC bank account.

 

On January 22, 2015, Stillwell’s brother and co-defendant, David Chambers Opembe, registered a shell company called Erickson’s Drying Systems with the Harris County Clerk in Texas. On the same date, he opened a bank account at Regions Bank in the name of Erickson’s Drying Systems, listing himself as the sole signatory on the account and his home address in Texas. No one at the actual Erickson’s in Ft. Myers was aware of or approved the establishment of the Texas corporation or business bank account.

 

Between January 22, 2015, and October 23, 2015, Stillwell caused approximately 21 checks to be issued from the SPM disbursing account to the “fake” Erickson’s Drying Systems account. She facilitated the automated issuance of these checks by submitting fabricated invoices that she had altered using prior legitimate invoices from Erickson’s. Stillwell had all of these checks delivered to her office instead of having them mailed to Erickson’s in Ft. Myers. She then deposited the checks into the Erickson’s account her brother had established. After the funds were deposited, Opembe withdrew cash and transferred funds to his personal checking account. Stillwell and Opembe used the funds to make their car payments and to pay for other personal expenses. In total, Opembe and Stillwell deposited approximately $262,067 in fraudulently obtained checks into the “fake” Erickson’s bank account.

 

David Chambers Opembe previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and, on March 2, 2017, he was sentenced to 36 months’ incarceration.

 

This case was investigated by the Tampa Police Department and the Pinellas Park Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mandy Riedel.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
StopFraud
Component(s): 
Updated March 20, 2017