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Press Release

Monroe County Tobacco Store Owner Pleads Guilty To Wire Fraud Conspiracy And Aggravated Identity Theft

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

SCRANTON – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that that Rehan A. Merchant, age 39, pleaded guilty to an Information that charged him with conspiring to commit wire fraud, and with aggravated identity theft.  Merchant previously was indicted by a federal grand jury on November 10, 2015, and has remained in federal custody since his arrest.

According to United States Attorney Peter Smith, Merchant was the owner and operator of the Cigar and Tobacco Outlet in Tannersville, Pennsylvania.   The superseding information charges Merchant with conspiring with unindicted co-conspirators, from in or about September 2014 through September 2015, to use and attempt to use counterfeit and stolen credit and debit cards to make fraudulent purchases at the Cigar and Tobacco Outlet.  Merchant and his co-conspirators also allegedly forged the names of cardholders on the associated credit and debit card receipts. 

The investigation was conducted by special agents with Homeland Security Investigations and detectives from the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Phillip J. Caraballo.

Indictments and informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.

A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

The maximum penalty under federal law for the wire fraud charge is 30 years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine.  The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year term of imprisonment, to run consecutive to any other term of imprisonment.  Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant’s educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.     


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Updated June 20, 2016