Twenty people from the Youngstown area were indicted for their roles in a conspiracy to launder $16 million obtained through computer hacking and other fraud, law enforcement officials said.
Indicted are: Julius Smith Williams, 46; Jamal Perry, 37; Joseph Joe III, 40; William Howell, 47; Terry Marlowe, 53; Emmett Conner, 44; Sterling Green, 47; Keisha Johnson, 32; Kayla Neeley, 29; Isiah Patterson, 29; Donald Washington, Jr., 43; Terrance Phillips, 41; Steve Croom, Jr., 40; Crystal Jefferson, 39; Dulcinea Purdue, 32; Terrance Howard, 43; Cobie Phillips, Jr., 41; Ray Wynn, 43; Jermaine Donlow, 45, and Semira Stone, 29.
They are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The defendants are accused of working as conspirators in an international fraud organization with conspirators operating from Canada, Africa and other parts of the United States.
These 20 defendants were recruited and managed by a mid-level operator identified in court documents as Z.H. He operated in and around Youngstown, Columbus and Atlanta. Working at Z.H.’s direction, the defendants established shell companies and business bank accounts used to receive and launder at least $16 million obtained through various fraud schemes, according to the indictment.
The larger conspiracy involved several different fraud schemes designed to dupe unsuspecting law firms, businesses and people to think they were engaging in legitimate business or financial transactions when, in fact, they were not. These schemes often involved computer hacking, spoofed emails and computer takeovers, according to the indictment.
Z.H. provided the conspirators in Canada and elsewhere with the numbers and other information about the accounts opened by the defendants. The victim funds were transferred into the bank accounts. Then the defendants, working at Z.H.’s direction, transferred the fraudulently obtained money out of the accounts, typically in multiple smaller transactions designed to conceal the source of the proceeds and hinder efforts to recover the money, according to the indictment.
The defendants shared in the proceeds of the fraud schemes, typically commensurate with their respective roles, according to the indictment.
Ten other people have already pleaded guilty to criminal informations for their roles in the conspiracy.
“These defendants were a vital cog in an international theft ring,” U.S. Attorney Justin E. Herdman said. “They laundered millions of dollars of stolen money and now have to answer for their actions.”
“These individuals took great efforts devising various fraudulent schemes in an effort to conceal the illegal source of their money,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony. “The FBI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners through long term investigations, such as this one, to ensure fraudsters are brought to justice.”
This case was investigated by the FBI’s offices in Youngstown, Buffalo and Tampa, as well as by the Toronto Police Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ranya Elzein and Paul Flannery.
If convicted, the defendants’ sentences will be determined by the court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violations. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and, in most cases, it will be less than the maximum.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.