Skip to main content
Press Release

Leader Of Local Hip-Hop Group Is Sentenced To Nine Years For Bank And Wire Fraud Conspiracy And Aggravated Identity Theft Charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C.Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, announced today that Damonte Withers, 30, of Charlotte, was sentenced to 108 months for bank fraud conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, and aggravated identity theft charges in connection to a bank and identity theft scheme.  In addition to the prison term imposed, Withers was ordered to serve two years under court supervision and to pay $1,068,511.87 in restitution.

U.S. Attorney Murray is joined in making today’s announcement by David M. McGinnis, Inspector in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service;  Reginald DeMatteis, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Charlotte Field Office; and Chief Kerr Putney of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department.

According to court documents and today’s sentencing hearing, Withers, also known as “Tony da Boss” on social media, and his co-conspirators, were members of a local hip-hop group known as the “FreeBandz Gang” or “FBG.” 

According to court documents, from February 2014 through January 2016, Withers conspired with others to commit bank fraud by engaging in what is commonly known as a “card-cracking” scheme.  As part of the scheme, Withers and his co-conspirators recruited individuals to hand over their bank account ATM/debit cards and PINs in exchange for the promise of an easy pay-day.  Withers and other members of FBG would then deposit fraudulent or stolen checks into the bank accounts using the corresponding ATMs or mobile banking applications, triggering a credit to the account.  Court records show that Withers and his co-conspirators would then quickly withdraw cash from the accounts, before the banks could determine the deposited checks were worthless.

In addition to the card-cracking scheme, in October 2016, Withers and several members of FBG also executed wire fraud conspiracy in which they used victims’ stolen identities to fraudulently acquire cellular phones, tablets and other goods so they could resell them for profit.  Withers and other members of the conspiracy obtained victims’ names, Social Security Numbers, dates of birth, and other personal identifying information, using an Internet-based database and used that information to manufacture fake IDs, which they then used to open phone lines and complete fraudulent credit applications in the identity theft victims’ names.  Over the course of the investigation, law enforcement found Withers to be in possession of several items used to manufacture the fictitious identification cards, and of the personal identifying information of at least 18 individuals.  Withers’ fraudulent conduct continued at least until he was charged in December 2017.  Withers previously admitted to causing between $550,000 and $1.5 million in losses as a result of his fraud.

Withers’ co-defendants were previously sentenced as follows: Nemiah Davis was sentenced to 70 months in prison and three years of supervised release; Quadarius Thomas was sentenced to 65 months in prison and two years of supervised release; Jeffrey Monteith was sentenced to 58 months in prison and three years of supervised release; Deandre Howze was sentenced to 57 months in prison and three years of supervised release; Laerek Williams was sentenced to 54 months in prison and two years of supervised release; and James Willingham was sentenced to 52 months in prison and three years of supervised release.

In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Murray commended the work of the United States Secret Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department for their investigation of this case.

Assistant United States Attorney Dallas J. Kaplan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte is in charge of the prosecution.

Updated March 21, 2019