Federal Jury Finds Belen Man Guilty on Bank Fraud and Conspiracy Charges
ALBUQUERQUE – A federal jury returned a verdict today finding Raymundo Silva, 35, guilty of a conspiracy charge and five bank fraud charges after a four-day trial. The jury acquitted Silva on two other bank fraud charges. The verdict was announced Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough, Special Agent in Charge Dennis A. Ulrich, II, of HSI in El Paso, and Chief Roy E. Melnick of the Los Lunas Police Department.
In announcing the jury’s verdict, Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough commended HSI and the Los Lunas Police Department for their outstanding investigative work on a case that affected numerous citizens victimized as a result of the scheme perpetuated by Silva and his two co-defendants. Mr. Yarbrough also expressed his appreciation to the prosecutors who successfully prosecuted all three members of the bank fraud scheme.
"HSI is committed to use its ample and unique investigative authority to uncover this type of fraudulent activity,” said Dennis A. Ulrich, Special Agent in Charge of HSI El Paso. “Bank fraud victimizes innocent people, and part of the HSI mission is to prevent financial crimes and protect the privacy and identity of our citizens.”
Chief Roy E. Melnick of the Los Lunas Police Department said, “The Los Lunas Police Department is grateful to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Albuquerque office of HSI for being such strong partners with our Department in working together to bring about justice in this major bank fraud scheme. I also have praise for the Los Lunas Police officers and detectives who initiated this case, followed up this investigation thoroughly, gathering critical evidence and working very closely with Homeland Security Investigations agents to bring about a successful conclusion to this case. In addition, I have praise for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for bringing about a successful prosecution of this case. This criminal case demonstrates when local and federal law enforcement agencies work closely together, we can make a difference.”
Silva, and co-defendants Patricia Diaz, 35, of Los Lunas, N.M., and Christina Knight, 29, of Albuquerque, were indicted in Aug. 2013, on conspiracy, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft charges. The trio subsequently was charged in a 31-count superseding indictment alleging conspiracy to commit bank fraud; 24 counts of bank fraud, including eight counts against Silva (including one count that was dismissed by the United States before trial), three counts against Diaz, and 13 counts against Knight; and six counts of aggravated identity theft against Knight. The superseding indictment generally charged Silva, Diaz and Knight with engaging in a scheme to commit bank fraud between Dec. 2011 and April 2013.
On Oct. 28, 2013, Diaz entered a guilty plea to the bank fraud conspiracy and three substantive bank fraud charges, and on Feb. 20, 2014, Knight entered guilty pleas to the bank fraud conspiracy, 13 substantive bank fraud charges, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Silva proceeded to trial on the bank fraud conspiracy and seven substantive bank fraud charges against him.
Trial commenced on Feb. 24, 2014, and concluded this afternoon when the jury returned a verdict of guilty on the conspiracy count and five of the seven bank fraud counts in the superseding indictment against Silva, and not guilty on two bank fraud counts. The trial evidence established that Silva, Diaz and Knight perpetuated a bank fraud scheme by stealing checks from residential mailboxes, altering the names of payees and the amounts on the checks, and cashing the checks using either their own identities or, in the case of Knight, the identities of others.
In Dec. 2011, a Los Lunas police officer investigating a check washing and identity theft ring targeted a sedan seen leaving a Los Lunas bank following a failed attempt to cash a fraudulent check. In Feb. 2012, after surveillance established that the sedan frequently visited a residence in Belen, Los Lunas police officers executed a search warrant at the residence and seized chemicals and other products commonly used to wash and alter checks, several driver’s licenses, college IDs and Social Security cards, bank receipts and other evidence.
Investigation by HSI and the Los Lunas Police Department identified Silva, Diaz and Knight as the members of the bank fraud scheme in late 2012, following the theft of five checks from the mailbox of a Los Lunas residence. Silva cashed one of the checks on Dec. 26, 2012, and between Dec. 20, 2012 and Jan. 4, 2013, Knight cashed three of the checks by using the identification of another person. Each of these four checks had been altered by changing the name of the payee and amount. Laboratory analysis by HSI revealed that the chemicals seized from Silva’s residence were used to wash the checks.
Silva has been in federal custody since his arrest in Aug. 2013. He remains detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled. Silva faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and 13 years in prison on each of the eight bank fraud charges.
Diaz and Knight also are in custody pending their sentencing hearings. Each faces a maximum of five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and 13 years on each of their bank fraud charges. Knight also faces a two-year prison sentence which must be served consecutively to any prison sentence imposed on the conspiracy and bank fraud charges to which she pleaded guilty.
This case was investigated by HSI Albuquerque and the Los Lunas Police Department and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Norman Cairns and Paul Mysliwiec.