Former Branch Manager Of Bank Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Cashing Over $400,000 In Fraudulently Obtained Tax Refund Checks
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Shantelle P. Kitchen, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the New York Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (“IRS-CID”), and James T. Hayes, Jr., the Special Agent in Charge of the New York Field Office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (“ICE”) Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”), announced that EDWIN MEJIA pled guilty today to participating in a scheme to cash more than $400,000 in fraudulently obtained federal tax refund checks issued in other people’s names. MEJIA was arrested in March 2014 and pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer.
According to the allegations in the Complaint and Information filed in Manhattan federal court, and statements made during today’s plea proceeding:
Until approximately March 2014, MEJIA worked at branches of a bank (“Bank-1”) in Yonkers and Manhattan. MEJIA initially was a banker and later became the branch manager of multiple branches of Bank-1. From approximately 2010 through 2013, MEJIA participated in a scheme to fraudulently obtain and cash tax refund checks issued by the United States Treasury. The fraudulent refund checks were generated by the filing of false and fraudulent tax returns in the names of other people (the “purported filers”), and the checks were made payable to the purported filers. As part of this scheme, MEJIA helped facilitate the cashing of the fraudulent refund checks.
In particular, MEJIA obtained personal identification information for the purported filers, including their Social Security numbers and dates of birth. MEJIA then cashed the fraudulent checks himself or by paying a co-conspirator to do so. When cashing a fraudulent check himself, MEJIA presented the refund check, along with the corresponding Social Security number and date of birth of the purported filer, to a complicit bank employee. Other times, MEJIA paid a co-conspirator to open bank accounts in the names of the purported filers and cash the checks. As part of the scheme, MEJIA cashed, or caused others to cash, more than $400,000 in fraudulent Treasury checks.
MEJIA, 31, of Yonkers, New York, pled guilty to one count of theft of public funds, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison. The statutory minimum and maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge. As part of his plea, MEJIA also agreed to pay $442,642.58 in forfeiture. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Engelmayer on March 12, 2015, at 2:15 p.m.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of IRS-CID and HSI in the investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Cohen is in charge of the prosecution.