Three Defendants Charged In White Plains Federal Court With “Forced Posting” Fraud
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of a complaint charging three defendants with allegedly engaging in conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud in a scheme known as “forced posting.” Two defendants, LATOYA ROBINSON and DASHAWN JOHNSON, were arrested and presented yesterday before United States Magistrate Lisa Margaret Smith. Defendant TANYA HATWOOD remains at large.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “As alleged, the defendants took advantage of a security feature of the debit card processing system, which allowed for nearly $1 million in fraudulent merchandise charges. Thanks to our federal and local law enforcement partners, the scam is over and the defendants face significant criminal charges.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “As technology continues to evolve, the complexity of fabricated schemes evolves almost faster than humans can keep up. Nevertheless, the FBI remains committed to investigating fraud in its many facets. By allegedly using fictitious codes in the attempt to take more than $900,000 in merchandise, the defendants believed their scheme would go undetected. However, now that the two defendants are facing federal charges today, it is clear that their misguided criminal behavior was wrong.”
As alleged in the Complaint unsealed in White Plains federal court:
When a customer presents a debit card to purchase merchandise at a store and the card is swiped at an electronic card reader maintained by the merchant, electronic signals are routed from the merchant to the brand of the customer’s debit card, and then routed to the underlying bank that issued the debit card. The bank then verifies whether the customer has sufficient funds in the account to cover the requested transaction, which is then relayed back to the merchant. When there are insufficient funds on the debit card presented by the customer, the card reader will display a message that the transaction request was denied.
Many card readers have a functionality, though, that allows someone to input a code that serves to take the card reader offline, overriding the denial message and verifying the transaction. Malign actors can take advantage of this functionality by inputting a fictitious code not provided by the issuing bank under the guise of entering a pin code or other authorization code, which could cause the card reader to show that the transaction was authorized. The merchant may then let the customer leave with any merchandise the customer attempted to purchase; the merchant would not learn that the code was fictitious and the transaction invalid until days or even months later. The process by which a customer could take advantage of the functionality is called “forced posting” or “forcing the off.”
Bank records, corroborated by interviews with more than 30 merchants, show that from 2013 up to May 2018, LATOYA ROBINSON, DASHAWN JOHNSON, and TANYA HATWOOD, together and separately, performed forced posting on dozens of occasions, and schemed to take or attempt to take more than $900,000 in merchandise in total.
* * *
ROBINSON, 29, of the Bronx, JOHNSON, 25, of Manhattan, and HATWOOD, 27, of the Bronx, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants would be determined by the judge.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI, the Yonkers Police Department, the New York City Police Department, and the Nassau County Police Department.
These case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant United States Attorney Samuel L. Raymond is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Complaint 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 Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.