Six Individuals Charged In Scheme To Defraud Merchants Out Of Jewelry And Diamonds
Defendants, Including Two Who Were Incarcerated at the Time, Conspired to Obtain Jewelry and Diamonds Using Counterfeit Checks
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Diego Rodriguez, Assistant Director-in-Charge of Federal Bureau of Investigation, (“FBI”), Robert E. Perez, Director of the New York Field Office of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), William J. Bratton, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), and Julie L. Jones, Secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections (“FDC”) announced that DAVID JENKINS, ANTHONY BROOKS, LAKEATHA COOPER, SHARON LARA, DOMINEK GRANT, and ROBERTO CONCEPCION were taken into federal custody today for participating in a scheme to defraud merchants of diamonds and jewelry in New York, New York, and around the United States. BROOKS was presented this afternoon in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. COOPER and LARA were presented this afternoon in federal court in Fort Pierce, Florida. GRANT was presented this afternoon in federal court in Charleston, South Carolina. JENKINS and CONCEPCION, who were incarcerated in a Florida state correctional institution, have been taken into federal custody and will be presented upon their arrival in the Southern District of New York. The case is assigned to the Honorable Jesse M. Furman.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “The six defendants allegedly tricked merchants around the country, including in New York’s Diamond District, into sending valuable jewelry in exchange for what turned out to be counterfeit checks and bogus money orders. Two of the defendants allegedly engaged in this brazen scheme while incarcerated for other crimes.”
FBI Assistant Director Diego Rodriguez said: “Using a contraband cell phone and a complex network of co-conspirators throughout the United States, an inmate in Florida allegedly defrauded jewelers in New York’s Diamond District out of thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry pieces. By posing as legitimate jewelry companies, David Jenkins negotiated a cash-on-delivery sale of jewelry with New York jewelers that was eventually paid with counterfeit certified checks and then re-sold. This cross-country scheme was met with cross-country law enforcement efforts, with FBI New York working closely with FBI Miami. We appreciate the assistance with today’s operations by FBI Columbia, FBI Phoenix, and FBI Miami. The FBI will continue to investigate big and small organized crime groups who seek to profit from fraudulent criminal activities.”
CBP New York Director Robert E. Perez said: “U.S. Customs and Border Protection is proud of the expertise we bring to support and assist investigations that result in the takedown of criminal enterprises. It is through interagency partnerships and collaborative efforts, like the one leading to today’s arrests, that law enforcement successfully combats today’s criminal organizations.”
NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton said: “As alleged, defrauding diamond dealers, while two of the defendants ran this racket from a jail, speaks to the audacity of the crime. Today, this scheme of swindling New York City Diamond District merchants and others is over.”
FDC Secretary Julie L. Jones said: “The apprehension and arrest of the six defendants in this case represents what can be achieved through cooperation and collaboration between law enforcement agencies, regardless of their location. The Department is proud of its investigative contribution and will continue its efforts in ensuring not only the safety of Florida’s citizens, but the freedom to safely and securely conduct business in our state.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
From at least in or about June 2015 to in or about June 2016, JENKINS, BROOKS, COOPER, LARA, GRANT, and CONCEPCION defrauded jewelry merchants in New York City and elsewhere by inducing the merchants to send gemstones, precious metals, and jewelry to them in exchange for counterfeit checks or other fictitious forms of payment.
The defendants contacted jewelry and antiques merchants by telephone, electronic message, and email. In many of these communications, JENKINS masqueraded as representatives of legitimate jewelry companies and, in doing so, often appropriated the names and personal identifying information of real people in order to induce merchants to ship jewelry and precious goods interstate. In the typical scenario, JENKINS, negotiated cash-on-delivery terms of payment from merchants, ensuring both that merchants would not meet any of the defendants in person and that the defendants could pay for the goods by counterfeit and fictitious certified checks. After receiving the merchants’ goods, the defendants typically sold those goods to other jewelry stores.
Contrary to the representations made to the merchants, JENKINS never represented any legitimate jewelry business. In fact, at all relevant times, JENKINS was incarcerated at a Florida state correctional institution, where he was assisted by CONCEPCION, who was also incarcerated at the same institution. BROOKS, COOPER, LARA, and GRANT, who at all relevant times were at liberty in the community, created and delivered counterfeit checks, accepted packages from merchants, and distributed proceeds from the fraud to others in the scheme.
JENKINS, 51 of Indiantown, Florida, BROOKS, 27, of Miramar, Florida; COOPER, 36, of West Palm Beach, Florida; LARA, 41, of Port Saint Lucie, Florida; GRANT, 31, of North Charleston, South Carolina; and CONCEPCION, 46, of Indiantown, Florida, are each charged with one count of conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, one count of interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and one count of possessing fictitious obligations, which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. JENKINS is also charged with one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory penalty of two years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants will be determined by the judge.
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Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding work of the FBI, the New York FBI’s Eurasian Joint Organized Crime Task Force, CBP, NYPD, and FDC for their investigative efforts and ongoing support and assistance with the case.
The prosecution of this case is being overseen by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew M. Thomas and Karin Portlock are in charge of the case.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
 As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment and the descriptions of the Indictment set forth below constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.