INDIANAPOLIS MAN CHARGED IN LARGE-SCALE FRAUD SCHEME
Alleged to have written thousands of bogus checks at area Kroger stores to purchase gift cards
Indianapolis – United States Attorney Josh Minkler today announced federal charges against an Indianapolis man for his role in organizing a fraud ring that utilized fraudulent checks to purchase gift cards and merchandise from stores throughout the country, to include area Kroger stores. Frank D. Powell 28, Indianapolis, was charged in a ten count Indictment, including seven counts of wire fraud, one count of attempted bank fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and one count of false statements to a financial institution.
“Individuals who defraud local business and banks drive up prices for all consumers,” said Minkler. “Those who chose to swindle others in this district will be held accountable.”
According to the indictment, between January 2016 and April 8, 2018, Powell and others presented and used fraudulent checks at Kroger stores in at least 12 states, many of which were in the Indianapolis area, to purchase gift cards and merchandise. The government alleges that Powell and his associates used more than 5,000 fraudulent checks during the course of the fraud scheme in at least thirty different individual and business names, such as “Frank Powell”, “Frank Pawell” and “Pawell Child Care LLC.” After processing, the checks would ultimately be returned to Kroger as “account closed, forged, non-sufficient funds or unable to locate account.”
In a second scheme, on March 12, 2018, Powell attempted to defraud a local bank and car dealership when he tried to obtain financing for the purchase a Cadillac Escalade using the identity of another person (victim), without that victim’s knowledge or authorization. Powell used the name, address and social security number of that victim, along with a fraudulent Illinois driver’s license that contained the victim’s information but Powell’s photograph, during the loan application process. When employees at the car dealership determined that Powell was not the individual described in the loan application, Powell allegedly offered one of the employees a sectional sofa to not report his illegal activity.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office, Fishers Police Department, Carmel Police Department, Johnson County Sheriff’s Department, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and Kroger’s Organized Retail Crime Investigators, Central Division.
"This indictment sends a clear message that the FBI will aggressively investigate those who commit financial fraud," said Grant Mendenhall, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Indianapolis Division. "It also highlights the strong relationships we have with our local law enforcement partners in pursuit of those who take advantage of others through their illegal and criminal behavior.
“Kroger admires the diligence of every agency involved in this investigation,” said Eric Halvorson, Manager of Corporate Affairs, The Kroger Co., Central Division. “We know it required a substantial effort from the store level up to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We are pleased the partnership produced the evidence that led to this indictment.”
According to Assistant United States Attorney MaryAnn T. Mindrum, who is prosecuting this case for the government, Powell could face up to 30 years’ imprisonment on bank-related charges, up to 20 years’ imprisonment on each of the wire fraud charges, and a mandatory minimum of 2 years’ imprisonment on the aggravated identity theft charge, to be served consecutive to any other sentence, if convicted.
An indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. All defendants are considered innocent until proven otherwise in federal court.
In October 2017, United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District’s response to its most significant public safety challenges. This prosecution sentencing demonstrates the office’s firm commitment to partner with federal and local law enforcement agencies to prosecute complex and large-scale fraud schemes that undermine faith in the markets, as well as to prosecute sophisticated identity fraud organizations. See United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana Strategic Plan Sections 4.5 and 5.1)