St. Paul Man Pleads Guilty To Bank Fraud
MINNEAPOLIS—Earlier today in federal court, a 37-year-old St. Paul man pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining funds from several financial institutions. Christopher Terrelle Harness pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Harness, who was indicted on November 20, 2012, entered his plea before United States District Court Judge David S. Doty.
In his plea agreement, Harness admitted that from October 2007 through July 2012, he obtained money from banks by depositing checks, drawn on the accounts of other individuals, that he knew were either stolen or not backed by sufficient funds into fraudulently opened bank accounts in order to deceive the banks into honoring ATM withdrawals from those bank accounts out of the falsely-inflated balances.
Harness also admitted that others, acting at his direction, opened bank accounts at several financial institutions with the intent that those accounts would be used to accommodate the scheme. In addition, Harness admitted that he and others stole checks from other individuals and forged those individuals’ signatures on the stolen checks. Harness admittedly deposited the stolen checks into the fraudulently opened bank accounts using ATMs. After the stolen checks were deposited, cash was withdrawn. In total, the victimized institutions sustained approximate losses of between $30,000 and $400,000.
For his crimes, Harness faces a potential maximum penalty of 30 years in prison on the bank fraud count, and a mandatory minimum penalty of two years on the aggravated identity theft count to run consecutive to any penalty on the bank fraud count. Judge Doty will determine his sentence at a future hearing, yet to be scheduled.
This case is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracy L. Perzel and Manda M. Sertich.
The Financial Crimes Task Force was established pursuant to state law and is comprised of local, state, and federal law enforcement investigators dedicated to combating the growing problem of cross-jurisdictional financial crimes. The task force, overseen by an advisory board also created under state law, serves the entire District of Minnesota, presenting its cases to county or federal prosecutors, as appropriate.
The task force and the Minnesota U.S. Attorney’s Office want to remind people to protect themselves from identity theft. For more information, visit http://www.stopfraud.gov/protect-identity.html
For more information on how to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, visit https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/investigations/MailFraud/fraudschemes/mailtheft/IdentityTheft.aspx