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Press Release

Florida Man Sentenced to Prison After Traveling to Edwardsville to Cash Counterfeit Checks Using Stolen Identities

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Illinois

BENTON, Ill. – Elvin Lugo-Cales, 47, of Orlando, Florida, was sentenced today to 51 months in
federal prison and 3 years of court supervision after his release. In January, Lugo-Cales pled
guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, use of a false passport, and aggravated identity theft.
On March 2, 2020, Lugo-Cales and his co-defendant, Johnny Collado, flew from New York to St. Louis
for the sole purpose of defrauding banks using stolen identities. They were paid members of a
criminal organization based in New York. Collado was the driver and coordinated the scheme through
text messages with a co-conspirator in New York. Lugo-Cales was known in the scheme as a “soldier”
– a person willing to travel to a new city, walk into banks, and conduct fraudulent transactions
face- to-face with bank tellers using fake IDs and counterfeit checks.

On March 5, 2020, Collado drove Lugo-Cales in a rental car to a US Bank location in Edwardsville,
Illinois. Lugo-Cales went inside the bank while Collado waited in the car. Lugo-Cales walked up to
a bank teller and presented a counterfeit check in the amount of $3,650.00 made payable to an
identity theft victim from Colorado. The check had a forged endorsement and the victim’s social
security number written on the back. Lugo-Cales also presented a false U.S. passport card bearing
Lugo-Cales’ photograph and the name of the victim. He then asked the bank teller to cash the check.

The bank teller recalled an internal e-mail she had received warning branches about a man traveling
around  the  St.  Louis  area  attempting  to  cash  counterfeit  checks.  Seeing  that  Lugo-Cales
 fit  the description of the suspect, she notified her bank manager and stalled the transaction
while the bank manager called the police.

Lugo-Cales grew nervous and demanded the bank teller return his check and passport card. When the
teller refused, he left the bank and drove away with Collado, leaving behind the counterfeit check
and passport card with his picture on it. The two men were pulled over and arrested nearby.

Lugo-Cales had over $1,500 cash in his pocket at the time of his arrest. Collado had numerous items
concealed near his crotch, including over $25,000 in cash, multiple counterfeit IDs, counterfeit
credit cards, and 19 blank counterfeit checks.

During the sentencing hearing, United States District Judge Staci M. Yandle remarked that identity
theft is a “very serious offense” that “destroys people’s lives.

Updated May 7, 2021