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Maryland Fraudster Gets 6 Years In Prison For Bank Fraud And Identity Theft Scheme

After being convicted on July 5, 2011, Vicente Bilora Mbenga of Maryland, has been sentenced to six years in prison, three years supervised release after and an owed restitution of $27,218.06 for committing bank fraud and running an identity theft scheme.

According to court documents and evidence presented at Mbenga’s trial, he participated in a scheme in which co-conspirators contacted bank customer service representatives by telephone, posing as bank customers and requesting that the addresses on the customers’ bank accounts be changed to addresses controlled by members of the conspiracy. Once the address was changed, members of the conspiracy requested that the bank issue replacement debit cards and checks and mail them to the “new” addresses.

Mbenga operated his fraudulent schemes by cashing postal money orders with a debit card drawn on the account of one of the victims in the scheme. The card was obtained by posing as an account holder that needed a replacement card but instead of the card being sent to the actual account holder it was sent to an address in Hyattsville, Maryland. Vicente Mbenga was the payee of all of the postal money orders cashed.

During the Summer 2009, Mbenga recruited other individuals into the scheme and gave them postal money orders to cash. In each instance, Mbenga would drive with them to a post office, present them with a money order which he then directed them to cash. Mbenga would wait outside the post office while the individual was inside cashing the money order and would take the money from them immediately once they left the Post Office. In each case, the postal money order had been purchased using a fraudulently obtained debit card on a victim’s account. Often, those debit cards had been mailed to addresses to which Mbenga had access or addresses near his residence. Mbenga was arrested on August 3, 2009, outside a bank where a co-conspirator was attempting to cash a victim’s check. The co-conspirator was also arrested. At the time of his arrest, Mbenga had in his pocket a debit card on the victim’s account, the checkbook from which the victim’s check had been torn, and a photocopy of a genuine check on the account on which Mbenga had practiced the victim’s signature.

Over 20 people were victimized in this scheme. Compromised accounts contained over $1 million in available funds from multiple financial institutions. The actual losses to banks and individual victims totaled $92,783.35.

Mbenga also obstructed justice after his arrest when he stole part of a co-defendent’s cooperation plea agreement and took it back with him to prison where it read it aloud and outed the co-conspirator as a cooperator. The co-conspirator was then subject to harassment and threats prior to his testimony.

Seven defendants pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme and another was convicted at trial. All have been sentenced. A ninth defendant is currently serving a sentence on unrelated charges in Guyana. He is expected to be returned to the United States to face charges related to this scheme, upon completion of his sentence. A tenth co-defendant, Allen Theodore Smith, was acquitted by a federal jury.

I don’t understand when and why people think scamming is a good idea.

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