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Justice News

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

Friday, May 29, 2015

Second Individual Convicted, And Another Charged, In Wide-Ranging Investigation Into Multi-Million Dollar Fraud Scheme Involving U.S. Treasury Checks

BATON ROUGE, LA - United States Attorney Walt Green announced today the conviction of a second defendant, and the unsealing of an indictment against a third defendant, in an ongoing investigation into various check cashing businesses in Baton Rouge that cashed nearly $4 million in fraudulently-obtained U.S. Treasury checks during 2012 and 2013.

In one case, ALBELK REYES SERRATA, age 26, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, has pled guilty to conspiracy to steal government funds, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.  As SERRATA acknowledged in Court in connection with his guilty plea before Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson yesterday, he participated in a scheme to fraudulently obtain United States Treasury checks and have them cashed by an associate who operated a money service business on Florida Boulevard in Baton Rouge.  From April 2012 through April 2013, SERRATA and his co-conspirators fraudulently obtained and cashed approximately 370 Treasury checks, having a total face value of approximately $2.2 million.  After the checks were received and cashed in Baton Rouge, SERRATA’s co-conspirator would retain a percentage of the funds for herself, withdraw the remainder of the funds in cash, and then transmit the funds to SERRATA and others.  As a result of his role in the scheme, SERRATA faces significant incarceration, fines, restitution, and supervised release following imprisonment.

In another case, CARLOS L. LINARES, age 55, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been charged by a federal grand jury with failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program, in violation of Title 31, United States Code, Sections 5318 and 5322.  The Indictment was returned by the grand jury on May 20, 2015 and unsealed in Court yesterday.  According to the Indictment, LINARES owned, operated, and managed a separate business, also on Florida Boulevard in Baton Rouge, named Latinos Supermarket, LLC.  The Indictment alleges that, from March 2012 through May 2013, LINARES took in and deposited more than 270 Treasury checks, totaling $1.6 million, the vast majority of which were addressed to individuals with out-of-state addresses, and most of which had been obtained through fraud.  According to the Indictment, LINARES failed to follow the requirements placed on him as a registered money service business and failed to prevent his store from being used to facilitate criminal activity and launder money.  If convicted, LINARES also faces significant incarceration, fines, restitution, and supervised release following imprisonment.

U.S. Attorney Green stated: “My office takes these types of offenses very seriously.  These crimes put millions of taxpayer dollars at stake, make it more difficult for taxpayers to properly file their own taxes, and threaten the public’s confidence in the Internal Revenue Service.  In the case of Mr. Linares’ alleged failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program, his alleged conduct invited criminals to come to Baton Rouge and allowed the criminals to line their pockets with the proceeds of fraudulent activity.  My office appreciates IRS-CI’s commitment to working with us to root out this type of criminal activity.”

IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent-in-Charge Jerome R. McDuffie stated: “IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to utilize our forensic accounting skills in cooperation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to put a stop to bank fraud.  The Indictment against Mr. Linares reflects that we will vigorously pursue those who willfully assist in the negotiation of fraudulently-obtained refund checks and fail to comply with federal reporting requirements.  Identity Theft, and the prosecution of all involved parties, remains one of our agency’s top priorities.”

This ongoing investigation is being handled by the Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation Division, with assistance from the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions.  The matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Alan A. Stevens, who serves as a Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Crosswell.

NOTE: An indictment is an accusation by the Grand Jury.  A defendant is presumed innocent until and unless adjudicated guilty at trial or through a guilty plea.

Updated May 29, 2015