Prosecutors say the scheme was very sophisticated.
A Clarksville man entered a plea Thursday in US District Court in Baltimore in connection with a bank fraud scheme. Lemoyne Veney, 44, pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft. US Attorney for Maryland Rod Rosenstein says Veney conspired with Theresa Smithrick and Kevin Pittman in this very sophisticated scheme.
He says the three used stolen Personal Identification Information from the Baltimore City District Court. "Smithrick actually worked in the city district court, and Veney asked her to provide Personal Identification Information to him: names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, that sort of thing," says Rosenstein.
He says Veney and his co-conspirators used this information to try to get money from financial institutions. "Some of the schemes included opening bank accounts in the names of phony corporations and then depositing checks into those accounts and making withdrawals. So it was a pretty sophisticated scheme that ranged across the state," says Rosenstein. He says Veney told Pittman to drive to various locations around the state, including Frederick and Columbia, and use phony documents to open up business and personal bank accounts. They would also deposit counterfeit business checks into these accounts, and withdraw money before the banks learned the checks were bogus.
More than 50 clients lost a total of at lest $70,000, according to the US Attorney's Office.
The scheme occured between November, 2007 to February, 2011, according to federal officials.
Rosenstein says prosecutors are seeing more and more cases involving identity fraud each year. "Identity fraud is exploding, really, as a result of many factors. One of which is the availability of the Internet, the opportunities that people have to commit fraud, and the amount of personal information that's out there, the ease with which people can get identifying information today," he says.
Rosenstein urges consumers to guard their personal information. He also says check your credit report regularly. And if you seen anything suspicious, a purchase you don't remember making, or an account you don't remember opening, notify law enforcement so that these individuals who commit fraud can be prosecuted.
Veney is scheduled to be sentenced on March 22nd before US District Judge Richard D. Bennett. He could get 30 years in prison for bank fraud conspiracy, and an extra two years for aggravated identity theft. "That's a relatively new federal statute we've had on the books for six or seven years now," says Rosenstein. "We use it in these identity fraud cases. For somebody committing a fraud scheme and they're using someone else's name and personal information in the course of that scheme, that's considered an aggravating factor that adds two years on the sentence."
Theresa Smithrick, 47, of Brooklyn, New York, and Kevin Pittman, whose now using the name "Breona Pittman," age 33, of Chesapeake, Virginia, have already pleaded for their roles in this scheme. Smithrick will be sentenced on April 29th, and PIttman on May 1st, 2013.