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COVID Feature: Unprecedented Fraud

COVID Feature: Unprecedented Fraud

Senior Director of Strategic Alliances
LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a public health crisis is an understatement. (Consider the fear, anxiety, and hardship of those who have experienced illness and/or the loss of a loved one, job, or home. Stick the word “unprecedented” in there for a more accurate description.) On top of that, consider Nicholas Milano White, 29, of Baltimore, Md., who collected benefits related to the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act by stealing his victims’ personal information, amongst many other illegal acts.

White was a busy man between October 2019 and June 2020. He participated in multiple fraud schemes that included mail theft, counterfeiting U.S. currency, production and possession of false identification documents and credit profits, unemployment insurance fraud, and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. (Brace yourselves folks, this is a long one.)

Let’s start with a bogus application for financing to fund his purchase of a 2016 Maserati Ghibli, which sells for around $72,000. He qualified for the loan by providing a false Social Security number, fake employment and income information for himself and his co-applicant. (He even created fake paystubs to verify his income. Voila, he qualified for a $30,227 loan to purchase the expensive sports car.)

Now, we’ll move on to the efforts White took to defraud banks and steal from his victims by negotiating checks stolen from the U.S. Mail. White directed his co-conspirators to steal mail from collection boxes in the Baltimore vicinity. After altering those stolen checks, he deposited them into back accounts that he controlled. (The good news is that law enforcement was aware of his alleged illegal actions.)

In March 2020, authorities followed White and his co-conspirators through a GPS tracking device that was inside a parcel stolen from the Rosedale Post Office in Baltimore County. When police officers approached the co-conspirators, who were stealing mail across the county, they fled the scene in a vehicle registered to one of the fraudsters. When it was found, gloves, trash bags, and 358 pieces of unprocessed U.S. Mail were on the ground outside of the vehicle. (So that’s where my stimulus check ended up.) Fortunately, law enforcement later arrested White and a co-conspirator, seizing their cell phones and USB storage devices.

The cell phones contained text messages regarding the creation of fake credit profiles and false identification documents for himself and others, as well as personal information about his identity theft victims. The phones also contained a lot of sensitive information about 1,100 credit cards White downloaded from websites that illegally marketed and distributed them. White’s cell phones also provided evidence that he initiated Internet searches for business and personal check orders, a credit card dump website, and a personal data broker website, plus photos of stolen checks. (It’s amazing what you can find on a fraudster’s cell phone.)

Now, let’s move on to more text messages that provided detailed information about White’s negotiation to purchase multiple firearms. And, then there were the images that resulted in the charges related to producing counterfeit U.S. currency. (Apparently, he tried to purchase firearms with counterfeit currency. This guy is a hot mess.)

Brace yourselves, there’s more. White was released from custody in March 2020 at which time he went right back to his old fraud ways. He submitted a false claim for Florida state unemployment benefits through the Internet under the name of a real person and their personal information, but providing a fake mailing address in Baltimore. (Kind of a red flag there.)

Lastly, he unlawfully received an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) check for $2,900. It was intended for a married couple living in Maryland. White intercepted the payment, endorsed it, and deposited the check into an account he opened using the name, social security number and birthdate of one of his victims.

Following the search of White’s home and a storage unit by law enforcement, investigators found a boat load of evidence supporting all of the charges against him, including several firearms and rounds of ammunition. White’s plea agreement requires him to pay full restitution for his victims’ losses. He’ll also forfeit many items related to his multiple fraud schemes seized in the searches of his personal property. If the court agrees to these conditions, White will get between five and eight years in federal prison. Charges against two-conspirators remain pending.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “Serial Fraudster Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges for Conspiring to Steal Mail, Stealing Benefits Under the CARES Act, and Aggravated Identity Theft,” dated December 1, 2020.

Baltimore, Maryland – Nicholas Milano White, age 29, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to the federal charges of conspiracy to steal mail, emergency benefits fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Postal Inspector in Charge Peter R. Rendina of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Washington Division; Special Agent in Charge Bo Keane of the United States Secret Service – Baltimore Field Office; and Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department.

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