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Member of 'gang' sentenced in bank fraud conspiracy

Baltimore, MD - On November 2, 2017, United States District Judge Marvin J. Garbis sentenced Tara Kathleen Whyte, age 30, of Hollywood, Florida, and Gambrills, Maryland to 54 months in federal prison followed by 3 years supervised release for  bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft stemming from a banking scheme involving over $1 million in losses.  Judge Garbis also ordered Whyte pay restitution in the amount of $77,422.06.

The sentence was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Stephen M. Schenning; Special Agent in Charge Christopher Caruso of the United States Secret Service - Baltimore Field Office; Chief Antonio DeVaul of the Maryland National Capital Park Police, Montgomery County Division; Acting Chief Stanley Johnson of the Maryland National Capital Park Police, Prince George’s County Division; Chief Gary L. Gardner of the Howard County Police Department; Chief Terrance B. Sheridan of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Anne Arundel County Police Chief Tim Altomare.

Whyte was one of 13 members of a nationwide group of fraudsters known as the “Felony Lane Gang.” These individuals traveled from Florida to Maryland and other states, broke into vehicles parked at recreation areas, sports fields, gyms, fitness centers, and other locations, and stole wallets, purses and other items left in the vehicles. The defendants then used the victims’ stolen checks, credit cards and identifications to conduct fraudulent financial transactions. Traveling groups generally consisted of two to four managers and one to six “faces” (sometimes called “sliders” or “workers”) or persons who passed the fraudulent and stolen checks.  They traveled in rental cars and stayed in hotels sometimes using victims’ identities and credit cards.

Eight other defendants have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced as follows. Courtney B. Walker, age 29, of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida – sentenced to 54 months;
James J. Blakey, age 30, of Ft. Lauderdale – sentenced to 57 months;
Vincent Lee Sands, age 27, of Lauderhill – sentenced to 42 months;
Tracy Lee Whyte, age 36, also of Hollywood, and Gambrills– sentenced 54 months;
Shannon Elise Isley, age 31, of Sunrise, Florida – sentenced to 48 months;
Lauren Anne Bole, age 30, of Miramar, Florida – sentenced to 26 months;
Felicia Kaye Waybright, age 28, of Daytona Beach, Florida – sentenced to 31months; and
Amie Nicole Carter, age 33, of Casselberry, Florida – sentenced to time served (7 months).

The remaining defendants pled guilty but have not yet been sentenced.

According to the 27-count indictment, from September 2012 through July 2015, the defendants used the checks, credit cards, identifications, and other items they stole from breaking into unattended vehicles to pose as the victims or to access the financial accounts of the victims. The defendants recruited prostitutes, drug addicts, and other vulnerable individuals to travel with them to conduct financial transactions using the stolen checks, driver’s licenses, and other materials, and paid them with drugs, food, and small amounts of cash amounting to a fraction of the total value of the checks they cashed. The conspirators often wore wigs and glasses to more closely resemble the victims whose stolen driver’s licenses they used to conduct the transactions.

Over the course of the scheme the defendants fraudulently obtained and attempted to obtain over $1 million from more than a dozen financial institutions using the identification of hundreds of individual victims.

The Maryland Identity Theft Working Group has been working since 2006 to foster cooperation among local, state, federal, and institutional fraud investigators and to promote effective prosecution of identity theft schemes by both state and federal prosecutors. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Working Group, demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement agencies to work with financial institutions and businesses to address identity fraud, identify those who compromise personal identity information, and protect citizens from identity theft.

Today’s announcement is part of the efforts undertaken in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud.  Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants.  For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.

Acting United States Attorney Stephen M. Schenning commended the U.S. Secret Service, Maryland National Capital Park Police - Montgomery and Prince George’s County Divisions, and the Howard County, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County Police Departments for their work in the Maryland portion of this multi-state, multi-agency investigation.  Mr. Schenning thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamera L. Fine and Ayn B. Ducao, who prosecuted the case.

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