BALTIMORE- A federal judge has sentenced a Salisbury man to more than 10 years in prison for stealing the identity information of at least 40 clients of a residential mental health program in order to open fraudulent bank accounts and file false tax returns.
In addition to his 121-month prison sentence for conspiring to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, 34-year-old Christopher Andre Devine, who also had Frederica, Del., and Philadelphia addresses, was also sentenced to five years suspervised probation following his release.
According to his plea agreement, from December 2008 through Dec. 22, 2011, in Maryland, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, Devine and his co-defendants, Quanishia Williamson-Ross, Lenee E. Williamson and Quashonna Williamson opened or recruited others to open checking accounts at banks and obtain check cards, which the conspirators then controlled. The conspirators then deposited fraudulent checks into the accounts and used the associated check cards at ATM machines to make cash withdrawals from the accounts, court records show.
According to evidence presented to the court, conspirators Williamson-Ross and the Williamsons gave all of the proceeds from the scheme to Devine who provided them with little more than food and shelter. The women lived with Devine and were completely financially dependent on him, court records show. According to court testimony, Devine used a minor to further the scheme and led the group of conspirators with violence and intimidation, including punching and throwing a conspirator across a room.
The plea agreement also indicates that Devine obtained the identifying information of at least 40 individuals who were clients and 60 individuals who were current or former employees, of a residential program for adults with mental health needs, which he purchased from an individual who was employed at the program. Devine used the personal identifying information of these victims to open checking accounts via the telephone and Internet that he then controlled for use in the scheme, court records show.
Court documents also showed that Devine and his co-conspirators had fraudulent identification documents made using the personal information of others but with photographs of Devine, Williamson-Ross and Lenee Williamson, which they used, along with the check cards, to make purchases at retail stores, later returning the purchased items for cash. The conspirators also used the check cards to obtain services, such as utilities, cable, and cellular phone service, and to make purchases for their personal benefit at restaurants, drug stores, grocery stores, gas stations and video rentals, and other businesses, according to the plea agreement.
Prosecutors said Devine also participated in a scheme to defraud the IRS by preparing and filing false tax returns in the names of individuals recruited for the tax fraud scheme and using the personal identifying information of clients in the program. Authorities said that for the 2010 tax year, at least 34 false tax returns were filed, claiming $123,126 in false refunds. Refunds from many of the false tax returns were direct deposited into bank accounts controlled by Devine through the bank fraud scheme.
In December 2011, law enforcement searched a van and two homes in Salisbury used by the co-conspirators. Investigators said hundreds of pieces of evidence were seized, including: credit/debit cards; SSN cards; fraudulent driver's licenses; and personal identifying information of approximately 300 individuals, at least 100 of whom were clients or employees at the program.
Prosecutors noted that over the course of the scheme, Devine and his co-conspirators used the stolen identifying information of at least 24 individuals to open at least 73 checking accounts at financial institutions, resulting in a loss of at least $200,000.
Quanishia Williamson-Ross, 31; and Lenee E. Williamson, 22, both of Salisbury, Frederica, Delaware and Philadelphia, previously pleaded guilty to the same charges and are awaiting sentencing.
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