Seven Individuals Charged In Bank Fraud And Identity Theft Ring
MINNEAPOLIS—The United States Attorney’s Office announced today that a federal grand jury indicted a man on a variety of charges stemming from an identity theft, bank fraud, wire fraud, and tax fraud conspiracy. Six additional co-conspirators were charged via Information for their roles in the conspiracy.
Christopher Lindsey, the individual who allegedly orchestrated the conspiracy, was arrested today and charged in a 23-count indictment. Specifically, Lindsey was charged with one count of Conspiracy to Commit Bank and Wire Fraud, 12 counts of Bank Fraud, three counts of Wire Fraud, four counts of Aggravated Identity Theft, one count of Conspiracy to Defraud the United States, and two counts of submitting False Claims for Refunds. Eric Childs was charged with one count of Conspiracy to Commit Bank and Wire Fraud. Nicole Shantelle Ashton, Monta Dormus Davis, Quentin Nathaniel Durr, Joanetta Joyce Robinson, and Tramaine Michael Smith each face one count of Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud.
According to the 23-count indictment:
From October of 2002 until December of 2013, Lindsey allegedly coordinated an elaborate check fraud scheme as well as a fraudulent tax return scheme. As part of the alleged check fraud scheme, Lindsey obtained legitimate bank account information, including names and addresses of businesses and individuals, bank routing and account numbers, check numbers, and signatures, from a variety of sources, including approximately 20,000 stolen checks that had already been negotiated as part of legitimate transactions. Lindsey then used that information in the creation of counterfeit checks. Lindsey, and other members of the conspiracy, would then negotiate the counterfeit checks at various financial institutions and businesses throughout the Twin Cities area. The total intended and actual loss for the counterfeit check scheme that Lindsey and his conspirators carried out was more than $1 million.
Also during this time, Lindsey allegedly executed a conspiracy to submit false claims to the IRS. Lindsey and other conspirators recruited individuals to file false and fraudulent tax returns with the IRS. Lindsey would create false and fraudulent Form W-2s for those individuals, in which he combined the correct information of his conspirators, including names, dates of birth, and social security numbers, along with false information regarding employment, earnings, and withholdings. As a result of these actions, Lindsey and his conspirators caused the IRS to issue fraudulent income tax refunds.
These fraudulent refunds were then loaded onto debit cards issued to the conspirators who had filed the fraudulent returns. The conspirators, in turn, provided the debit cards to Lindsey, who then used the debit cards at ATMs to make cash withdrawals. The conspiracy involved the submission of more than 40 fraudulent claims seeking refunds totaling more than $270,000.
If convicted, Lindsey faces a potential maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for conspiring to commit bank and wire fraud, bank fraud and wire fraud, and a mandatory minimum sentence of two years on each count of aggravated identity theft. Lindsey also faces a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for conspiring to defraud the United States and a potential maximum penalty of five years in prison for false claims for refunds. All sentences are ultimately determined by a federal district court judge.
United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger stated that, “The crimes charged in this case have a real impact on our community and economy. Because of the nature of this organization and its crimes, the defendants were able to support their criminal network for more than ten years. Because of the great work of the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force, and the strong law enforcement partnerships that are central to its operation, these defendants are being held to account for their crimes.”
This case is the result of an investigation led by the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force, which was established pursuant to state law. The task force investigates financial crimes related to identity theft, with a special emphasis on organized criminal enterprises. It is comprised of local, state, and federal law enforcement investigators dedicated to combating the growing trend of cross-jurisdictional financial crimes.
“This investigation came together as a result of the partnerships between agencies and the extraordinary efforts of all involved working under the umbrella of the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force and is an example of successful collaboration of local, state, and federal criminal justice agencies,” said Patrick Henry, Commander of the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force.
The Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force serves the entire District of Minnesota, presenting its cases to county or federal prosecutors, as appropriate. Its participants include the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations Division, the Minneapolis Police Department, the St. Paul Police Department, the Edina Police Department, the Duluth Police Department, the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, the Mille Lacs County Sheriff’s Office, and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
“IRS-Criminal Investigation, along with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, remain vigilant in our duty to protect the honest taxpayers of this country by diligently investigating identity theft and refund fraud crimes and holding those accountable who defraud the government and hurt innocent taxpayers,” stated Rick Goss, St. Paul Field Office Acting Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation.
Louis Stephens, Special Agent in Charge of the local office of the United States Secret Service added, “These individuals are well versed in using identity theft to commit bank fraud and other types of financial crimes. This type of crime continues to increase in complexity and the impact on our economy and communities throughout Minnesota, especially the greater Twin Cities area, grows each year. Identity theft and related crimes are the crime wave of today and will continue to be in the future. Criminal conspiracies such as this are extremely difficult to investigate because they are hierarchical in nature and commit their crimes across jurisdictional lines in an effort to frustrate law enforcement’s ability to track them and associate their crimes. The Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force is a force multiplier that enables the combined resources of federal, state, and local law enforcement to pool our resources and maximize each agency’s expertise to more effectively combat this type of crime.”
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lola A. Velazquez-Aguilu.
The charges contained in an indictment are mere allegations and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.