|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that 23 people, most of them from the Brooklyn, N.Y., area, were indicted today on charges that they participated in an elaborate bank fraud scheme in which defendants impersonated holders of legitimate business bank accounts in order to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars from the accounts, withdrawing most of the funds at casinos in Atlantic City.
The Division of Criminal Justice obtained the indictment as a result of an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Casino Investigations Bureau. The defendants allegedly targeted business accounts at JP Morgan Chase Bank, stealing more than $275,000 from 14 business bank accounts between February and September 2011. The State Police investigation began after bank investigators detected fraudulent activity involving funds being withdrawn by wire transfers and cash advances at Atlantic City casinos.
The indictment charges all 23 defendants with second-degree racketeering, a charge that carries a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison. The three alleged ringleaders – Johnny Cobb, 31, of Jamaica, N.Y., Nurlin Wright, 34, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Avery Jackson, 26, of Jamaica, N.Y. – were also charged with second-degree counts of conspiracy, theft by deception and money laundering. The leaders allegedly brought the other defendants into the scheme, recruiting some who impersonated owners/signers of legitimate business bank accounts and others, called “bodies,” who opened fraudulent accounts in their own names and made withdrawals of stolen funds.
“This is a complex case of financial fraud in which defendants based in Brooklyn, New York, allegedly traveled on a regular basis to Atlantic City to cash out the proceeds of their criminal scheme,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Criminals often use the casinos to launder money or further their financial schemes because large cash transactions are conducted there. This is a great example of the outstanding work done each day by the members of the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice who are assigned to investigate and prosecute financial crimes in the casinos.”
“We allege that after these defendants obtained certain information regarding the bank accounts of legitimate businesses, they fraudulently transferred funds out of the accounts and withdrew them in Atlantic City casinos,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Bank fraud on this scale is alarming. Fortunately, once the bank detected the fraudulent activity, the State Police were able to track down the defendants and obtain the evidence we used to secure this indictment.”
“Once our detectives became aware of this intricate bank fraud scheme involving the casinos, they initiated a complex investigation, connected the dots, and put an end to this criminal venture,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “This case was made with a great team, including the Division of Criminal Justice and the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.”
The scheme allegedly worked in the following manner. Cobb, Wright and Jackson allegedly would recruit a person to open a fraudulent small business account with JP Morgan Chase Bank. This person, called “a body,” would use his or her real name and identification to open the account, which would be opened under a bogus business name. At the same time or soon after, another person – who was instructed to dress and act “corporate” and who was given fraudulent photo identification in the name of an owner/signer of a legitimate JP Morgan Chase business account – would be added on as a joint owner of the new fraudulent bank account. This person was called the “add-on.” The add-on enabled the defendants to establish a link between the targeted bank account and the fraudulent account.
Once the accounts were linked, someone posed as the owner of the legitimate account to transfer funds from that account to the fraudulent account by a telephone or online transaction. The funds would then be withdrawn from the fraudulent account by wiring them to Atlantic City casinos for pick-up by one or more “bodies,” or the “bodies” would be transported to Atlantic City casinos with credit cards from the fraudulent accounts and would be instructed to make Global Cash Advance withdrawals of the funds. The “bodies” and “add-ons” allegedly received a smaller cut of the stolen funds for their efforts.
After receiving information from JP Morgan Chase Bank regarding fraudulent transactions, the lead detective for the State Police, Detective Sgt. Christopher Larsen, conducted a far-reaching investigation in which, among other things, he reviewed bank account records, Global Cash Access records and Atlantic City casino surveillance videos to identify the defendants. The State Police have arrested 16 of the 23 defendants in the case. Those arrested include Cobb and Jackson. Cobb remains in jail with bail set at $500,000, and Jackson remains in jail on other charges. Arrest warrants have been issued for the remaining seven defendants, including Wright, who are being sought as fugitives.
The indictment charges four defendants – Cobb, Jackson, Joshua Mazyck, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Raymond Springs, 50, of Reading, Pa. – in a second scheme in which they allegedly cashed counterfeit checks against legitimate accounts at Wells Fargo Bank and TD Bank. The defendants allegedly cashed or attempted to cash more than $45,000 in counterfeit checks. Those checks included five counterfeit checks totaling more than $14,000 that Jackson allegedly cashed against the Ocean County Department of Corrections Inmate Commissary account at Wells Fargo Bank. Jackson received a check from the commissary while jailed in Ocean County on unrelated forgery and theft charges, and he allegedly used that check to create the five counterfeit checks. All of the counterfeit checks charged in the indictment were uncovered in an investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, which began when the Ocean County Department of Corrections reported the counterfeit checks drawn on its account.
Raymond Springs is charged only in relation to the alleged counterfeit check scheme. The other 22 defendants are charged in connection with the larger bank fraud scheme. Of those 22 defendants, Cobb, Wright, Jackson and a fourth defendant, Okee Wade, 36, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who allegedly acted frequently as an “add-on,” are charged with second-degree counts of conspiracy, theft by deception and money laundering. The other 18 defendants charged in the larger bank fraud scheme for acting as “bodies” and/or “add-ons” face third-degree charges of conspiracy, theft by deception and money laundering. Most of the defendants are also charged with third-degree attempted theft by deception.
Deputy Attorney General Yvonne G. Maher presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, Casino Prosecutions Unit. The lead detective was Detective Sgt. Christopher Larsen of the New Jersey State Police Casino Investigations Bureau, Financial Crimes Unit. Detective Mark Malinowski of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office investigated the counterfeit check scheme.
The following is a full list of the defendants named in the indictment (*indicates defendant is fugitive):
- Johnny Cobb, 31, of Jamaica, N.Y.
- *Nurlin Wright, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Avery Jackson, 26, of Jamaica, N.Y.
- Okee Wade, 36, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Demetrious Jordan, 25, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Quanmik Wells, 23, of Cambria Heights, N.Y.
- Jeffrey Grimes, 26, of St. Albans, N.Y.
- Haverton Banks, 26, of Cambria Heights, N.Y.
- *Esterlin Samuel, 27, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- *Wayne Settle, 50, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Joshua Mazyck, 24, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Nathifa Bembrey, 31, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- *Zulika Hosten, 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- *Paul Winston, 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Orquida Wade, 32, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Darrell Richardson, 27, of Roanoke Rapids, N.C.
- Javon Walker, 27, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Shante Carpenter, 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Nickecha Robinson, 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Catherine Kennedy, 33, of New York, N.Y.
- *Dashawn Lynch, 30, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- *Julius Anderson, 23, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
- Raymond Springs, 50, of Reading, Pa.
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. The second-degree money laundering count carries an enhanced fine of up to $500,000, and an additional anti-money laundering profiteering penalty of $250,000.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Pedro J. Jimenez Jr. in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Atlantic County. The indictment is posted with this release at www.njpublicsafety.com.